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IBM Gets Serious About Blogs

Big Blue is finally dipping its toe into the blog tools arena, readying Weblog Preview for commercial launch next month and posting a free download on its alphaWorks site.

For those who chastised IBM for a lack of blogging tools and strategy, the company has posted a free download of its new Workplace-labeled blogging tools on alphaWorks.

The Weblog Preview promises application templates as well as integrated search, preview capability, rich text editing, comments, archiving, and permalinks, IBM said Tuesday.

The software will support both Atom and RSS syndication feed formats, IBM said. The tool will surface commercially next month in Workplace Designer 2.5, according to an IBM spokeswoman. Workplace Designer, the promised Eclipse-based IDE, will feature a full blogging component.

While IBMers like Ed Brill have long blogged—-the company claims 2,800 weblogs--IBM had not articulated a clear blogging product strategy per se.

Analyst Dana Gardner, who had been critical of IBM's blogging status till now, is encouraged. "This is a big step for IBM as well as for blogging and RSS delivery of collaborative content in general," said Gardner, principal analyst with Interarbor Solutions, Gilford, N.H.

"While blogging may be viewed by the public as a hobbyist's plaything, it is serious fro business productivity and IBM-like Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft is on the bandwagon," he noted.

Late last year, software rival Microsoft started testing MSN blogging tools and more recently unveiled its RSS strategy.

On the Notes/Domino part of the house, IBM cites an open source Blogsphere project for those developers.

But both IBM and Microsoft are playing catch up in this game, observers say. Google has already stolen many hearts and minds with its free tools and that lead may be hard to beat, even some Microsoft partners say.

Asked recently if Microsoft should still be looking over its shoulder at the open source world and IBM, a long-time Microsoft Gold-certified partner shrugged and pointed out what he thought was the real threat.

Google, which earned street cred with its hugely popular Internet search and now desktop search tool despite the billions Microsoft has poured into both projects, is the real issue, said Paul Barter, vice president of sales and marketing at T4G, Toronto. "If you talk to a 25 year old, they have a gmail account, not an MSN account and if they blog, they're using Google tools," he said.

This story was updated Wednesday morning with analyst quotes.

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