Announced at Lotusphere back in January 2008, Bluehouse was pitched predominantly at the SMB market.
Now available as a public beta, the tool allows individuals to share documents, projects and contacts, and host online meetings.
"We are moving our clients, the industry and even IBM itself to have a mixture of data and applications that live in the data centre and in the cloud," said Willy Chiu, IBM high performance on demand solutions vice president.
IBM has also added more services to its Lotus Sametime Unyte web conferencing system, including a 'waiting room' feature where meeting participants can gather, as well as prompts for meeting hosts.
The company plans to integrate Sametime Unyte with Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime to allow people working in email or instant messaging to join web conferences easily.
IBM will also offer Rational Policy Tester OnDemand that will automate the scanning of web content to ensure that it complies with industry legislation.
A similar application called Rational AppScan OnDemand will scan web applications for security bugs.
IBM Online Collaboration Services vice president Sean Poulley explained how IBM plans to market the new Bluehouse tools in an increasingly competitive market.
"Whereas Microsoft is document centric and Google is email centric, our solution is a mixture of both," he said.
Poulley acknowledged that Bluehouse does not actually contain email capabilities, but said that it can be easily integrated with email applications.
Bluehouse follows the release of EMC's CentreStage Essentials earlier this year that also provides a Web 2.0 collaboration environment.
Richard Edwards, information management practice director at analyst firm Butler Group, said: "All the major firms are beginning to offer software-as-a-service offerings to the middle market."
Edwards pointed to offerings such as Adobe Acrobat Connect, Microsoft SharePoint, and Google Apps. He also mentioned Zoho's Productivity and Collaboration application.
"Branding is likely to have a lot to do with which product IT departments choose," explained Edwards, even though he considered Zoho's suite as the most comprehensive offering.
"Microsoft and IBM have the traditional appeal and will have a head start in that area, although the next generation of users in their twenties will be happier to try new firms," he said.
IBM Bluehouse arrives in beta
By Rosalie Marshall on Oct 7, 2008 3:20PM