IBM and Google Inc. have jointly unveiled new portlet software that will allow users of IBM's WebSphere Portal to integrate more than 4,000 Google Gadget services and utilities into the portal.
The IBM Google Gadget Portlet, which will be available in April, will allow companies to add gadgets such as maps, to-do lists, product delivery tracking tools, driving directions and language translators to WebSphere Portal 6.0 and Portal Express systems used on corporate desktops, said IBM.
Frank Brooks, senior manager of data resource management and chief data architect at Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc., said that the gadgets could add "curb appeal" to the insurer's WebSphere portal.
However, he added, "most of them wouldn't be meaningful to our employees" because they include nonbusiness gadgets like webcams and games.
Brooks did note that the link with Google could enable his company to pull in more substantive gadgets that Google may add in the future.
"One of my concerns is who controls the quality of the gadgets," Brooks said. "Is there quality control, or are they just gadgets you use at your own risk? How do you know if it is a meaningful gadget as opposed to a frivolous gadget?"
"We're trying to bust the barrier of things you do on the consumer side and things you do on the enterprise side," said Larry Bowden, IBM's vice president for portals and Web interaction services.
For example, a gadget that provides driving directions could be useful in the business world, he said, noting that sales personnel could use it when driving to clients' offices.
At many companies, he added, employees are demanding tools like wikis, blogs and instant messaging, which can all be added using the gadgets. Pulling the gadgets into the portal would provide such employees with access to new collaborative tools that incorporate professional features like security, Bowden said.
In related news, IBM also announced its new Search Sitemap Utility portlet, which is designed to optimize portal content for search by external search engines.