IBM's Lotus Connections for Partners provides a social networking platform on which developers can post profiles, create bookmarks, and collaborate with third parties and IBM experts on software development and other technical topics.
"This highlights our recognition of the growth of social networking that started at the consumer level," said Chris Wong, VP of strategy and marketing for IBM's developer relations program.
Wong spoke in St. Louis at PartnerWorld, IBM's annual gathering of third-party developers and resellers.
Similarly, IBM's new developerWorks community spaces provides a platform on which developers can create special interest communities around technology trends and business topics -- such as programming for service-oriented architectures and open-source licensing.
Because it does not develop or sell its own software applications -- with the exception of its Lotus e-mail and collaboration products -- IBM needs to maintain a broad ecosystem of independent software developers to build applications that work with IBM middleware products like Websphere and Tivoli.
By providing tools that allow those developers to more quickly and effectively roll out new applications, IBM is helping to spur demand for that middleware. The strategy appears to be paying off. In its most recent first quarter, IBM's middleware sales increased 10% year-over-year to $3.2 billion.
Social networking also a represent a market opportunity in and of itself for the company. At PartnerWorld, social computing software VP Jeff Schick said IBM is building social networking sites for internal use at Cisco Systems, Sprint, and the federal government.