A few years ago, my young children would rise at unfeasibly early hours of the day and watch kids TV, including a programme called Bear in the Big Blue House. I was reminded of this when reading news of a new offering from IBM: a web-delivered service that provides extranet services to SMEs (aka SMBs) to allow them to collaborate securely. The service, codenamed “Bluehouse”, will allow small businesses to share contacts, files, project activities and interact with chat and web meetings (sadly, the logo is an orange house shape around a lower-case ‘b’ – no bear).
Bluehouse is not yet available (nor is any pricing information), but you can register for the beta product, designed for companies with up to 500 employees. Based on ‘Lotus Foundations’ (a line of pre-configured small-business servers including the Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, back-up and recovery, and office productivity tools), it will provide extranet collaboration services for open social networking, instant messaging, file sharing, project management and web conferencing, but – as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering – won’t require customers to have in-house technical expertise.
There is clearly a desire here from IBM to experiment with SaaS and take on Microsoft and its software-plus-services strategy. It will also have an impact on Microsoft and its various partners’ SharePoint-based extranet offerings (see previous post).