IBM's Web 2.0 Sales Pitch: We're Safer

End users want Web 2.0 apps. IT wants control. IBM says it can satisfy both groups, delivering collaboration tools as good as those in the consumer space—but wrapped in more security. And that combination is striking a chord with customers like the FAA.

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On the Web, IBM has been taking strides to address that weakness, says Forrester's Young, who noted that IBM released Many Eyes, a Web-based visualization tool that lets users view data interactively, including in tag clouds.

IBM's brand doesn't speak loudly on the Many Eyes site (it's on the bottom corner rather than the top), perhaps in acknowledgment that "IBM" doesn't hold the same allure for consumers as more playful tech names that have emerged during the past few years.

Morse says IBM has learned—and continues to learn—from the consumer-based (now turning enterprise) software vendors like Google that have changed the game in so many ways. "They do bring an entirely new business model and it's good for the industry," he says. "It forces us to step back and ask if there are different models in which people want to conduct business."

IBM's willingness to change with the times shouldn't be entirely surprising, says Boyd. "IBM has cut its legacy obsessions to greater extent than Microsoft," he says. "They gave up on OS2 and they gave up on PCs. They said let's cut our losses."

The real key, says the Yankee Group's Holbrook, will be if IBM can learn to communicate effectively with not only corporate IT departments, but also other business units—the areas of business that flock to Web 2.0 apps to give them what their cranky colleagues in IT have denied them for years.

"As more progressive CIOs come on board, they will view business units as constituents," he says. "[IBM] will need to be more receptive to meeting their needs rather than just the needs of IT."

Right now, early adopters of IBM's Web 2.0 tools are making their way slowly. The FAA's Hadar doesn't know if or when the agency will roll out IBM Connections enterprisewide: The disaster recovery team is serving as the test bed, and it's been a weak hurricane season so far. But he says embracing these types of technologies is critical for the future because if his users (especially the younger ones) don't have it, they'll go out and get it. Discourage them too much, and they'll go work someplace else, he says.

"I am aware of several small groups within the agency who are using wikis even though they are not currently available as an enterprise application," he says. "These people have networking and collaboration in their DNA. As an agency, we need to think about how we cater to them."

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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