IBM launches enterprise social collaboration apps for tablets

IBM makes the move in recognition of the increased presence in the workplace of tablets like the iPad

Responding to increased use of tablets within workplaces, IBM will release on Wednesday several mobile applications designed to let employees use IBM enterprise social collaboration software with iPads and other mobile devices.

The new applications, free to customers with active licenses of the IBM software being tapped, have been built specifically for tablet interfaces and have security, IT management and compliance features.

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"The apps are very lightweight and talk directly back in a secure manner to the enterprise systems that people who don't have these devices are using inside the company," said Rob Ingram, senior manager of IBM's Mobile Collaboration Strategy.

One of the applications lets employees use IBM Connections via iPads, while another one is for LotusLive Meeting users to participate in online meetings using iPhones or Android, BlackBerry or iPad tablets.

For IBM Sametime, another application lets employees engage in one-on-one or group instant messaging sessions on iPad and Android tablets. There is also one application for Lotus Symphony Viewer that lets users view ODF-based files, including documents, spreadsheets and presentations, on iPads, iPhones or Android devices.

There are also applications for managing telephony tasks within IBM Sametime from tablets and for Android device users to add widgets to home screens as shortcuts to their Lotus Notes mail and calendar.

"All of these capabilities together provide a workable set of solutions for people that are coming to us in droves now looking for iPad and other tablet support," Ingram said.

IBM is also releasing on its developerWorks website preview versions of new tools for enterprise developers to create mobile applications for Android devices. The company also has a new WebSphere tool for companies to enhance their sites' mobile interfaces.

The applications will be available in popular mobile app stores like the Apple App Store and Android Market.

With this batch of mobile applications, IBM is advancing the cause of tablets in the enterprise by letting end users use those devices to access core collaboration and communication services normally accessed from PCs, said analyst Chris Hazelton, mobile research director at 451 Group.

"This batch of native mobile apps connects tablet users to all the core IBM [collaboration and communication] services -- email, IM, document viewing and enterprise social networking," he said.

The new development tools are also important because they will let in-house enterprise programmers create custom mobile applications and optimize their company's sites for mobile devices, Hazelton said.

The growth in usage of tablet devices in workplaces is significant, and currently the iPad is by far the most popular, according to a 451 Group survey of about 1,600 corporate IT decision makers conducted in November.

When asked who is the manufacturer of the tablets their company plans to buy in 2012's first quarter, 77 percent of respondents said Apple, followed at a great distance by Samsung (10 percent), (7 percent), and Research In Motion and Dell with 5 percent each, according to Hazelton.

Juan Carlos Perez covers search, social media, online advertising, e-commerce, Web application development, enterprise cloud collaboration suites and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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