IBM, Google Team on Gadgets for the Workplace

IBM has become the first vendor to incorporate Google Gadgets into its commercial portal software, WebSphere, the two tech companies announced Wednesday. Users of WebSphere Portal and WebSphere Portal Express v. 6.0 will have some 4,000 free-of-charge add-ons they can create, customize and use within the WebSphere Portal.

“The delivery of Google Gadgets into a business environment is going to evolve how people work,” said Larry Bowden, IBM Lotus vice president of portals and Web interaction services. “IBM and Google together can deliver a content-rich user experience to small business and large enterprises. Google’s portfolio of gadgets accessed and managed seamlessly within WebSphere Portal provides an extensive set of services for reuse in user-created situational applications.”

Got Gadgets?

IBM Portlet for Google Gadgets will be released in April via IBM’s WebSphere Portal catalog, according to the company. Users will be able to search through an Internet directory of gadgets and customize them to run with IBM software, including its customer relationship management (CRM) applications, collaboration services and enterprise resources management applications.

The deal brings Google Gadgets to employee desktops throughout an enterprise. The gadgets are small applications created by Google users, such as language translators, package delivery tracking tools, Podcast search tools, Wikipedia information finders, YouTube players, Google Maps utilities, traffic information and Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

Business workers download the gadgets to their desktops, allowing the tools to make their way into the corporate network environment whether or not they receive the go-ahead from their IT department. Kathy Quirk, a program manager at IDC, told TechNewsWorld that the tie-up provides businesses with a controlled or IT-sanctioned use of consumer technologies within the workplace.

“By providing support, IBM is minimizing the security and management risk, which is a big concern for IT,” she continued.

For business workers, Quirk explained, these gadgets provide a way to customize desktops, provide new methods to display and analyze business data, and add new information sources that can help them during the course of the workday. In terms of the enterprise, one of the attractions of making gadgets accessible via a portal to a large number of people is that it gives the company a chance to experiment and test them out.

“The interesting thing to watch will be how organizations adopt these gadgets and build applications that deliver business value,” she said. “Right now, Web 2.0 tools like gadgets are bright and shiny objects that are hard to resist, and enterprises are evaluating how best to incorporate these tools.”

Ultimately, that will lead to some great new ideas for business applications, Quirk said

The War for Enterprise 2.0

The inclusion of gadgets is a new trend and it will be a must-have, Laura Didio, research fellow at Yankee Group, told TechNewsWorld.

In its ongoing fight with Microsoft and other competitors, Google has definitely won the day with this deal, said Didio, adding the partnership helps tie up Google’s already impressive dominance in this area.

“Google and IBM have a common competitor — Microsoft,” Didio explained. “And Microsoft [in this market] is definitely at the kids’ table at this point and time. It is truly a stick in the eye for Google’s competitors. Any time you have two giants form an alliance, you have to take them more seriously.”

The announcement was a “huge step for IBM” that highlights the so-called “consumerization of the enterprise,” Jonathan Edwards, another Yankee Group analyst, told TechNewsWorld. As technology becomes more sophisticated and accessible to home users, according to Edwards, “workers today want less distinction between their home and work IT environments.

“With IBM incorporating these Google gadgets, which users as consumers are very familiar with and starting to use more and more within their business environment as well, with their more business related portlets that is a great step for them,” he continued.

The challenge for IBM, Edwards said, is making sure that the interoperability between the IBM portlets and the gadgets is seamless, so the data a worker gets from his company’s server is translated to Google maps, for example, without a hitch.

“Is it going to make it easier for me to click on a client of mine and then locate them using the Google Maps widget without having to copy and paste anything? The interoperability between the two will be very important,” he explained.

“It’s a good step for IBM. A lot of other types of vendors recognize that this Enterprise 2.0 type stuff — that what users desire and that’s what they want. IBM has to provide it. And google has a very strong brand and user friendly [user interface],” Edwards said.

Making Itself Familiar

Google has launched another viral attack against Microsoft as the search engine giant attempts to move into the application market, according to Edwards.

“Google’s approach is a viral approach. With their apps release, they said they are not going directly after Microsoft and IBM. That is up for interpretation, but they do believe that with the more users who use Google products, the more those users will like them and the better the products will become. And that will encourage use on the consumer and enterprise side,” he explained.

“For Google, this seems like a way for them to make their way into larger enterprises,” Edwards concluded. “This is a good move because they are getting users in large enterprises to use their stuff and that is their viral approach.”

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