IBM to launch portal product for small businesses

IBM Corp. Thursday announced plans to launch a new version of its WebSphere portal software aimed squarely at small and medium-sized businesses.

Called IBM WebSphere Portal Express, the product will require only one server, install in "five clicks" and be priced aggressively enough to attract smaller businesses, IBM said in a statement.

All of IBM's smaller customers will be eligible for the product's "low, per-user pricing," the company said, as opposed to only those with a large number of users. Taking a jab at Microsoft Corp., IBM said that company reserves its lowest discount pricing only for portal customers with 2,000 users or more.

In recent months IBM has markedly stepped up its efforts to attract small and medium-sized businesses. It said WebSphere Portal Express will be the first of several software products that it plans to launch aimed squarely at that market.

Portals are basically Web sites where information can be aggregated and customized for employees, customers and partners. An internal portal might include an expenses application or let workers collaborate on a project together, while an external portal could show details about product pricing and availability for a particular customer. The reusable content elements within portals are referred to as "portlets."

IBM tried to make its product easy to deploy and use in order to attract companies with little or no IT staff. With relatively little effort customers and IBM channel partners will be able to customize page layouts, add portlets or change a portal's interface, the company said.

The product is priced at US$77 per intranet user, with a limit of 2,000 users per portal server, and $30,000 per processor for extranet use, with a limit of four processor licenses per portal server. It is due to be available for download by Oct. 31 in English, Korean, Japanese, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, Brazilian Portuguese, Hebrew, and Turkish, the company said.

IBM also announced a slightly more advanced version of the product Thursday, WebSphere Portal Express Plus, that has the same functions along with added features such as instant messaging, group calendaring, document libraries, and document sharing and revision capabilities.

That product is priced at $122 per intranet user and $47,820 per processor for extranet use. The same limits apply, and availability is scheduled for the same date as for WebSphere Portal Express, in the same languages.

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