IBM is going social in a bid to invigorate its Lotus brand.
The company announced two new products at its annual Lotusphere conference this week- Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections – for what it calls business-strength social computing, which covers everything from creating blogs and wikis to building teams for collaboration.
The announcements impressed Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver, who said the applications will give Microsoft a run for its money in collaborative software.
“It’s the first time one of the enterprise software companies has embraced social computing in a big way,” she said in an interview from the conference, being held this year in Orlando.
“It’s a leap over Microsoft in social computing, but not overall. It gives the Lotus customer base more reason to look at the Lotus portfolio for things like team collaboration.”
They also got favourable marks from Mark Durst, president of Interchange Solutions of Markham, Ont., a Lotus solutions provider that makes Salesplace, a CRM plug-in for Notes, who is at the conference.
“Connections is amazing,” he said in a telephone interview. “The beauty is it will allow you using Web services to pop it into any application, such as ours.”
“It’s really a beautiful product.”
As for Quickr, “we believe that’s going to be extremely good, especially during team workspaces and shared content, because it’s a fast way of accessing content.”
Quickr, which Driver called Lotus’ answer to Microsoft’s SharePoint Services software, will be an upgrade to Lotus QuickPlace. A team collaboration and light document management suite, Quickr lets users create blogs, wikis and RSS content and share data with colleagues.
It connects to Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook and Web browsers, while on the back end it links to a number of data repositories, including, eventually, SharePoint.
Lotus said Quickr will help reduce overflowing e-mail boxes by allowing users to save attachments directly into a document library or team workspace. As a result, when wanting to sending e-mail with attachments a user could send a link rather than an attached file.
For document control there are check-in and check-out capabilities. Quickr teamspace owners can add team members outside of the firewall as well as within an organization.
Quickr Standard Edition will be released in before the middle of the year. Pricing was not announced. To help seed the market, Lotus will give a personal edition of Quickr free to Notes and Domino users.
Connections is an application whose tools are aimed at helping users build communities, gather and exchange information.
Through a Profiles component, users can search their organization for people by name, expertise or keyword, while Dogear allows users to bookmark information for searching. The Communities component les users form teams, while the Activities component gives users a dashboard to organize, share and collaborate on all files, e-mail, instant messaging chats and Web links in a project. Blogging tools give users the ability to create interactive communities.
Lotus Connections integrates with the upcoming Notes 8.0, Websphere Portal and Lotus Sametime 7.5. It also integrates with Microsoft Active Directories.
It will be available in the first half of the year. Pricing was not announced.
The conference was also told that a new version of Sametime (7.5.1) will soon be released with point-to-point video capabilities, allowing users to expand an instant message into a video conversation with another user, and tabbed chat, which will allows users to manage multiple conversations by consolidating all active IM sessions into a single Sametime window.
Final beta versions of the upcoming Notes and Domino 8.0 e-mail and messaging applications will be released next month, officials said.
After several relatively quiet years, there’s a noticeable buzz at Lotusphere this year, reports Forrester’s Driver and two VARs.
It’s “one of the busiest years in the last few years I “ said John Zarei, chief information officer and co-founder of Toronto’s Point Alliance, from the trade show floor. The company is an integrator and solutions provider that also makes Launch Pad, a Domino content management application.
“All in all, this is the best Lotusphere I’ve been to,” said Durst, “especially on the product side.”
“I’ve been around the Lotus world a while and I’ve seen it when it’s dropped to an all-time low a number of years back. It is definitely turning. It’s the biggest Lotusphere I’ve seen.”
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