IBM puts forms in its Web 2.0 stable

IBM puts forms in its Web 2.0 stable

IBM Tuesday added another chapter to its Web 2.0 story by releasing the latest version of its electronic forms technology as a server-based component that works with its portal technology and Notes.

IBM Lotus Forms 3.0 is designed to move the technology off the desktop and onto the server where companies can put it to work without having to install any desktop software.

IBM is targeting the government, insurance, banking and financial services, healthcare and consumer products/manufacturing where forms are used extensively in applications for such functions as tracking and approval routing.

The current version of the technology, acquired when IBM bought PureEdge in 2005, has all the logic and rendering capabilities housed in a desktop client.

The desktop version will continue to be sold and its client will be used to support offline capabilities.

The Forms technology was originally branded with Lotus' short-lived Workplace moniker. Now, the technology is part of a series of server-based components the company is making available for both WebSphere and Notes 8 users.

In January, IBM Lotus introduced Lotus Connections, a set of server-based social-networking services accessed over a network. At the time, Lotus said it was working on another wave of social-networking services that targets business intelligence, real-time communications and Web 2.0 applications.

Two weeks ago, the company unveiled Symphony a set of free productivity applications. While those are desktop applications, the January announcement hints that Lotus is considering online versions of those applications. Lotus officials would only say they are tracking the software-as-a-service (SaaS) trend.

Companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft are racing into the online delivery market. Microsoft Monday released online services around Exchange, SharePoint and Communications Server and introduced a free document storage and collaboration Web site linked to Office.

Forms 3.0 is made up of three components, the Forms 3.0 Server, the Lotus Forms Viewer 3.0 for offline use, and Lotus Forms Designer 3.0 for building forms that can be published to a Web site.

The server itself includes all the logic previously housed in the client and an XML translation engine that takes in HTML and produces an XML representation for use on the back-end. The same process happens in reverse on the way back to the client. The other component is an API for building integration with back-end systems and existing workflow engines.

"With 3.0 we are bringing the feature parity between the rich client and the server-based version to virtually nil," says Greg O'Connell, government forms leader for IBM.

IBM says Forms can serve as a front-end to business process systems on platforms such as WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Content Management, Filenet P8, Lotus Expeditor, WebSphere Process Server, SAP and Siebel.

Lotus Forms 3.0 is available now and is priced starting at US$400 per processor value unit. Lotus Forms Designer 3.0 is $670 and Lotus Forms Viewer 3.0 is $115.

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