IBM aims to bring Apple, social networking to the enterprise

Big Blue wants a piece of high-flying Apple, as well as a slice of the social networking craze. As Macworld Expo gets underway in San Francisco Thursday, IBM unveiled enterprise-class social software for the iPhone and Mac.

On the support side, IBM has also joined the Enterprise Desktop Alliance, a group of software vendors who've bandied together to deploy and manage Macs in the enterprise.

“IBM is endorsing the notion that Apple is ready for business,” says Ed Brill, director of product management for Lotus Notes. “The Mac and the iPhone platforms are maturing to the mainstream part of the corporate environment. It’s no longer just marketing and the CEO who have Macs.”

The latest version of IBM’s office productivity suite, Lotus Symphony 3.0 beta, is now available on both Windows and Mac. Enterprise customers can also leverage IBM’s social software products like Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr for blogs, wikis and collaboration on the Mac or iPhone.

“We’re not treating this as a porting effort but as a first-class piece of our equation to go across the spectrum of Apple devices,” Brill says.

Last month, IBM delivered an iPhone app called Lotus Notes Traveler Companion for secure enterprise email. Meanwhile, IBM customers such as Colgate-Palmolive, Union-Pacific Railroad, HSBC, United Nations, among others, have already deployed Lotus Social Software for “harnessing the wisdom of the crowds,” IBM claims.

It’s not simply a case of IBM wanting to hang with the cool crowd, either. Lotus Notes integrator iEnterprises, which also helps enterprises securely mobilize Lotus Notes and other enterprise apps, has heard customers asking for iPhone support. Recently, iEnterprises launched five iPhone apps on the App Store.

“Today, about a third of our mobile customers use an iPhone component,” says John Carini, CEO of iEnterprises.

In the past, enterprises took a cautious approach with social networking and Apple products. Many decided not to support iPhones. “Psychologically, enterprises don’t want to deploy apps through the App Store,” Carini says. “But social networking, Macs and iPhones have reached critical mass, and now everyone is noticing.”

[Tom Kaneshige is a senior writer for CIO.com in Silicon Valley. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter.]

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