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Wireless Starter Kit For Business

IBM's Jumpstart package aims to tie company employees to networks via wireless services

Looking to entice businesses to stick a toe in the wireless waters, IBM has pulled the wraps off a new package of software and hardware to tie enterprise employees to company networks using wireless devices.

Called the Mobile Office Entry Jumpstart, the all-in-one package starts at $100,000 per kit and includes WebSphere software and 50 Palm-based Tungsten PDAs. The idea behind Jumpstart, says IBM, is to let businesses that haven't yet deployed wireless connections to the greater network to "start small and grow to enterprise scale."

The Jumpstart package bundles both the new version of IBM WebSphere Everyplace Access, and the Everyplace Connection Manager software. Everyplace Access, middleware that connects wireless-equipped workers to a company's back-end databases, productivity apps such as sales-force automation software, and IM platforms like Lotus Instant Messaging, has been updated to include new notification and alert features, according to IBM.

Intelligent Notification Services alerts wireless users of important information coming in from enterprise E-mail, partners, and back-end systems such as databases and server-based applications. An incoming order, for instance, that hits the company's sales force software, could send a notification directly to the Tungsten PDAs handed out to employees as part of the Jumpstart deployment.

To keep PDA-armed workers in contact, Jumpstart includes Everyplace Connection Manager, software that services the handoffs between wireless access points ranging from those in public networks to the ones on the company campus or in the building. Connection Manager ensures that a connection to the PDA isn't lost as users roam from one hot spot to another.

On the hardware side, Jumpstart puts Palm's Tungsten PDA in the hands of 50 workers, along with 50 wireless aircards to access the WebSphere software from laptops if the company chooses that route. The Tungsten PDAs, which feature a color display, built-in keyboard, and handheld editions of popular Microsoft office desktop applications such as Word and Excel, will run client versions of Everyplace Access and Everyplace Manager.

The U.S. Air Force has already deployed Jumpstart's core components at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah, as a way to provide its logistics managers with up-to-date information from its back-end parts delivery system, called Automated Manifest Tracking System. AMTS is used to account for delivery of aircraft parts between airbases and the Defense Department's Defense Logistics Agency.

At Hill, said Myron Anderson, the base's provisional IT director, WebSphere Everyplace Access and Everyplace Connection Manager "offers fast implementation and immediate e-mail access across a range of devices, and [access to] legacy applications like AMTS."

IBM will custom-fit Jumpstart bundles for smaller-sized companies that require fewer than 50 PDAs, but didn't release pricing details of those configurations.

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