IBM offers new Web software to challenge Microsoft

IBM's Lotus unit will introduce a set of social networking services that functions like a MySpace for office workers and which analysts say marks a renewed challenge to Microsoft, a Reuters report said.

The Reuters report said Lotus is going back to its roots as a pioneer of business collaboration software with a service called Connections that features the latest ways for users to share information via the Web, while giving businesses controls over who sees what data.

Lotus Connections offers the business equivalent of Web meeting places like MySpace.com or Facebook, Yahoo's bookmark sharing site del.icio.us and blog search tools like Technorati.com, the Reuters report said.

The Reuters report quoted Peter O'Kelly, a collaboration software expert with Burton Group, as saying that the new software from IBM Lotus promises to shake up a market dominated by Microsoft, where IBM, Oracle and Adobe Systems Inc. also compete.

The new offering could chip away at Microsoft's lead in the collaboration and email messaging market, where five years ago Microsoft Outlook email and its newer SharePoint collaboration software began to surge past rival IBM products, O'Kelly said.

While exact numbers are hard to come by, last year IBM said Lotus Notes had 125 million users. Adding in collaboration software, Lotus users number around 150 million, O'Kelly said. Microsoft has 200 million Outlook users and signed up another 80 million licensed users of SharePoint software, he said.

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