IBM working on Web-based collaboration platform

Blue Spruce project yields interactive collaboration and conferencing via Web browser

IBM is working on a platform for collaborative mashups that needs little more than a browser and a server to create a shared environment that includes audio and videoconferencing.

Called Project Blue Spruce, the software supports an environment for pulling together data, tools and widgets from around the Web to assemble the elements needed for business meetings.

For instance, IBM's Emerging Technology Group has created an application for Reuters' traders to meet online, hear managers' directives for the day and look over news and stock activity around the world, says David Boloker, IBM CTO of emerging Internet technologies.

Blue Spruce differs from other Web collaboration platforms and services such as WebEx in that the others download centrally assembled pages. With Blue Spruce, each machine involved in a collaboration downloads the elements required to make up the page from the nearest Internet source.

This means individuals experience faster page builds than they would if the content were assembled centrally and downloaded from a single source, especially if participants are widely dispersed around the world, Boloker says.

So in the Reuters case RSS feeds about individual companies, news stories and stock data might be compiled by each machine based on an application template describing what makes up the page. Stock prices are updated every five seconds from Yahoo.

In another example demonstrated at the IBM/Lotus Development Center, a real-estate collaboration application drew together Google maps, a longitude-latitude widget, real-estate listings and foreclosure data.

With it, a realtor and customers can confer over properties, and if one of the participants clicked on a particular property flagged on a map, the screens of all participants would refresh to show the listing for that property and perhaps a satellite view of it.

Each change to the page would be pulled from separate sources on the Web and assembled by each machine in the conference, Boloker says. An IBM widget sends notification of the changing event that takes place when one participant clicks on a property and the rest of the machines duplicate the change on their own, he says.

The platform relies on an XMPP server that a business would own or access via a service, and each participant would log in to a session via user name and password.

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