IBM SmartCloud Docs Target Google, Microsoft

IBM launches SmartCloud Docs, a new cloud-based office suite complete with social business and collaboration capabilities. The SmartCloud Docs is also a direct competitive effort against Google Apps and Microsoft's Office 365 as IBM seeks to expand into the midmarket.

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IBM is launching IBM SmartCloud Docs, a new cloud-based office suite, akin to Google Apps and Microsoft Corp.'s Office 365. Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation apps -- the proverbial pillars of productivity software -- are all here, alongside the new Social Business portfolio. This allows users to collaborate, "co-edit" and share documents, chat in real time and extend collaboration outside an IBM SmartCloud user base without limitations.

The IBM SmartCloud Social Business portfolio features the ability for users to develop their own blogs and wikis, deepening the discussion and collaboration capabilities within the platform. IBM promises "business-grade file sharing," specialized collaboration communities within the cloud, instant online meeting creation, presence, instant messaging and the all-important e-mail and calendar combination.

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But why now? Aside from the growing competition from Google and Microsoft, IBM is detecting bigger trends in the cloud world. Pointing to Forrester Research, IBM notes a direct link between cloud growth and the growth of business-based social networking. The cloud is set to hit a $241 billion in business by 2020, and social enterprise apps are set to grow to an estimated $6.4 billion well into 2016. Naturally, IBM wants to "capitalize on this convergence" of technology.

But this move is also part of IBM's momentum in retiring the Lotus brand and doubling-down on its efforts to reach a broader midmarket audience, a space clamoring for more affordable cloud-based solutions.

Likewise, this solution set better positions IBM to fit into more vertical spaces. IBM cites the University of Texas at El Paso as a client that's benefiting from this wide scale collaboration on campus -- helping the student body and faculty perform greater collaborative efforts with less effort. Similarly, this solution could be ideal for the health care sector, where small and medium practices need enhanced collaborative capabilities.

But cloud isn't complete without some mobility, and the IBM SmartCloud has been developed with mobile usage in mind. IBM has introduced "new software to help business partners secure cloud-based IBM email on mobile devices [and] extend their current business capabilities to mobile devices."

Looking for a deeper dive? IBM offers this video detailing the feature sets and is inviting interested parities to an upcoming webcast event on Dec. 13.

IBM SmartCloud Docs is free for those already using IBM SmartCloud Engage Advanced. For $3 per user, IBM Connections and SmartCloud Engage standard customers can add SmartCloud Docs to their existing solution set. IBM has also confirmed "all the SmartCloud for Social Business services are available to the channel partners to sell, deliver and deploy."

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