By Katie Hoffmann - Jan 31, 2011
This article was originally published on Bloomberg.com.
International Business Machines Corp.’s head of social networking was in an Indian airport last year when the client he was meeting changed topics. Unprepared, Alistair Rennie used his BlackBerry to access IBM’s internal network and poll colleagues on the matter.
“I had everything I needed,” Rennie said Jan. 28 in a telephone interview. “It saved me hours.”
Rennie is betting IBM’s customers will have the same reaction. The company is revamping its social-networking programs for mobile devices, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iPad tablet and Research In Motion Ltd.’s BlackBerry.
As Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. continue to add millions of users, IBM is aiming to carve its own space in corporate social networking. Sales of social-business programs should triple to almost $2 billion by 2014, IBM said, citing research firm IDC Corp. Adding its collaborative software to mobile devices will give IBM an extra boost in the industry as it raises corporate productivity, Rennie said.
“The network isn’t at the water cooler anymore,” he said.
The software will feature an activity feed, which gathers information about customers, relevant news and information about colleagues, Rennie said. Customers also will be able to have video Web meetings, share pictures and post blogs.
IBM is announcing the software today at its annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida. RIM co-Chief Executive Officer Jim Balsillie will be on stage to talk about how the software will work with the PlayBook, the company’s tablet scheduled to come this quarter, he said.
Other supported devices include those on Google Inc.’s Android platform and Nokia Oyj smartphones. IBM will add devices as they come out, Rennie said.
IBM climbed 22 cents to $159.43 at 9:56 a.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares advanced 12 percent last year.
The company also is introducing a cloud-computing version of its Lotus Symphony software, which lets users create and edit documents and presentations. Cloud computing is designed to help customers save money by letting them store and access data via the Internet, rather than from their own servers.
IBM, based in Armonk, New York, gets more than a fifth of its revenue from software sales. The division will account for more than half of the company’s profit by 2015, IBM said in May.