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IBM Launches Alternative To Microsoft Office

IBM on Monday unveiled a server-based bundle of desktop applications that offer companies an alternative to Microsoft's market-dominating Office suite.

Part of IBM's Lotus Workplace strategy, the software includes email, instant messaging, word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software. Unlike Microsoft's products, however, the applications are not tied to Windows or Mac systems, and can run on Linux, Unix or proprietary operating systems used in handheld computers and cellular phones.

The new products are built to be distributed and accessed through a web server. In addition, they are centrally managed, which means they can be upgraded on the server, with changes uploaded to the client when the user connects to the network. IBM claims this model is less expensive than upgrading applications from the client.

The software's management capabilities include check in-check out, version control and access to a central repository. Mobile users, such as corporate salespeople, can download the applications and data, disconnect to work offline, and then reconnect to synchronize changes in business documents, customer data or other work-related information.

IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y., plans to charge $2 per user per month for access to the software, plus the cost of the server needed to run the applications. IBM's WebSphere application server would be the preferred infrastructure.

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