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IBM toolkit runs apps on any platform

Cliff Saran
IBM has introduced a toolkit and operating environment for running cross-platform, task-based applications on devices ranging from Windows and Linux PCs to Apple Macs, mobile phones, PDAs and barcode readers.

The architecture, based on IBM's Websphere portal, Tivoli management, Lotus collaboration software and the open source Openoffice productivity suite, aims to change the way client software is engineered.

IBM is among a growing number of IT suppliers developing a new approach to client devices. Called a "rich client" the architecture uses centrally managed client software that supports a fully-featured GUI.

According to IBM, this model will allow users to manage and deploy business applications and data to a wide range of client devices.

Pam Sanford, director, IBM Ondemand Workplace, said the idea behind the strategy was to support pervasive devices. "The standard Windows client server architecture does not fit [all applications]," she said.

The operating environment and toolkit allow third-party software makers to create enterprise applications that can run on different types of hardware. Siebel, PeopleSoft and Adobe are among 20 suppliers supporting the IBM strategy.

Mike Gilpin, vice-president at Forrester Research, said the middleware could support new ways of working, in which applications are used on a variety of different devices, integrated with back-end applications using Websphere middleware.

IBM's approach could also offer stronger security. Amy Wohl, president of analyst group Wohl Associates, said, "The way IBM has architected the client will make it more resistant to rogue applications."

Microsoft is also developing rich client technology in Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

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