IBM buying SaaS e-mail to bolster Bluehouse platform

IBM is planning to buy the e-mail service assets of Outblaze, a large Hong Kong application service provider, to help beef up its Bluehouse social-networking and collaboration platform, IBM said late Thursday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Outblaze is privately held and says it supports more than 76 million users across 480,000 domains with its white label e-mail, social-networking and collaboration services.

Combined, the Outblaze and Bluehouse technology will enable enterprise customers to tap IBM for "all their messaging needs, whether on-premise or online," and smaller companies will get a "simple to acquire" and integrated bundle of tools, IBM said in a statement.

"Unlike most of IBM's recent software acquisitions it looks like Outblaze is as much about a volume customer list as technology," said James Governor, a UK-based analyst with Redmonk, via e-mail Friday. "In the game of counting mailboxes, IBM was clearly seeing real competition from new market entrants. That said, high-volume, simple hosted mail was a hole in IBM's portfolio."

IBM spokesman Mike Azzi said Friday that the company plans to reveal more details about how Outblaze's software will fit into Bluehouse next week, during the Lotusphere conference in Orlando.

Bluehouse, which is now in beta, focuses on making online meetings, networking and file sharing easier and more effective. The platform, which should play a prominent role at Lotusphere, is part of IBM's overall push toward delivering services from the cloud to customers.

IBM is starting to make a habit of announcing acquisition plans just before Lotusphere. Last year, the company revealed its intent to purchase the Canadian company Net Integration Technologies. The vendor's technology was eventually rolled into IBM's Lotus Foundations software appliances for SMBs.

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