ARMONK, New York: IBM this week announced the launch later this year of social networking software tools to bring to the corporate world the kind of blogging and idea-sharing typically associated with web communities on MySpace and Facebook. It declined, however, to set a date for the unveiling.

Lotus Connections will allow employees to set up virtual worlds in which they can meet like-minded colleagues within a company and exchange ideas with them, all in the name of improving productivity.

Says IBM's software group head Steven Mills: "We've been pleasantly surprised by how well this has resonated with corporate buyers."

The software will compete with Microsoft's Windows SharePoint Services, a rivalry that has been described as "the next chapter of competition between IBM and Microsoft for the hearts of information workers".

Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear (a bookmarking system), profiles and blogs — aimed at helping experts within a company connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff