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Product Launches | Trends

IBM Building Bridge to Major IM Platforms
By Clint Boulton

January 23, 2006

UPDATED: IBM today unveiled its latest Lotus collaboration software, which facilitates information in real-time and reuses assets to fit customers’ service-oriented architectures (SOA).

The products comprise IBM’s messaging and collaboration software, which includes instant messaging, e-mail, Web conferencing and other applications to help corporate employees better work together.

Ken Bisconti, vice president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products, said during the Lotusphere 2006 event in Orlando today that IBM has reworked its instant messaging suite to work with rival IM platforms, including AOL, Google and Yahoo.

This interoperability in version 7.5 is crucial at a time when consumers and enterprise users alike have come to rely on IM more than traditional e-mail to talk with friends, family and colleagues.

IM users have been clamoring to be able to send messages from disparate IM clients, which has been a problem because IM software makers have not wanted to open up their technology to competitors.

IBM is also working on integrating audio and video into Sametime with help from Avaya, Nortel, Polycom, Premiere Global Services, Siemens and Tandberg. Such features would allow users to “click-to-call” friends or co-workers through their Sametime client.

IBM is trying to change that game with Sametime 7.5, which also features a new instant messaging client interface; support for Apple’s Mac OS X version 10.4 and Linux; and a new Web conferencing interface to allow for multiple presenters.

Sametime 7.5 is expected to be available in mid-2006.

Sametime 7.5 is just one example of how IBM is hoping to thrash Microsoft in the collaboration marketplace at a time when both rivals are going for huge pieces of the multi-billion-dollar pie.

Microsoft last week unveiled a plan to migrate Lotus users to Exchange.

Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM’s Workplace, portal and collaboration software business, said on the Lotusphere call that IBM thinks it has the best shot at corralling this market, thanks to its “componetized” architecture.

At a high level, this essentially means products from IBM’s various software lines can mix and match to work together seamlessly.

But IBM has also managed to finally make its disparate Lotus products, including Sametime, Workplace, Notes and Domino, work together in a way that no other collaboration software maker has achieved.

This interoperability across product lines has been something IBM has been rapped for by analysts over the years.

“We can now reuse all of these pieces and share investments across product lines,” said Rhodin. “We have a team of thousands of engineers working on component technology that can be arranged into any offerings we want.”

Rhodin and Bisconti also unveiled IBM’s Workplace collaboration suite, geared to help customers with distributed computing systems reuse assets. The new Workplace suite includes Collaboration Services 2.6, Managed Client 2.6, Forms 2.6 and Designer 2.6.

Collaboration Services 2.6 includes e-mail, calendaring, team spaces, instant messaging, online learning and Web conferencing, document and Web content management.

Highlights of Collaboration Services 2.6 include user interface enhancements across all components, a better document search engine, support for the Open Document Format, iCal support for calendar interoperability with IBM Lotus Notes, and a new instant messaging gateway to Lotus Sametime.

IBM Workplace Collaboration Services 2.6 is available now for $90,000 per processor. The IBM Workplace Forms 2.6 server will ship in the second quarter of 2006 with a $25,000 price tag. IBM Workplace Forms Viewer will be $188, and IBM Workplace Forms Designer will be $649.

At the event today, the company demonstrated the next version of the Lotus Notes e-mail client, code-named Hannover, and announced the next major release of Lotus Domino 7.0, both of which will be available in 2007.

IBM officials said the next Lotus Domino will include portal services from WebSphere, new document library services and team spaces.

IBM also unveiled Lotus Notes Suite for SAP Solutions, designed to blend Lotus Notes features, such as calendaring, time tracking, contact management and report generation with SAP business processes. IBM expects its Lotus Notes Suite for SAP Solutions to be ready in the first half of 2006.

Big Blue also said it will expand support for Mac OS X, including support for Lotus Notes 7 on Apple’s Mac OS X version 10.4 with Lotus Sametime instant messaging, and it plans to support Apple’s new Intel-based Macs.

IBM will also introduce Macintosh support for Domino Web Access, IBM’s browser-based messaging client, via the Firefox browser.

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