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Feisty Lotus shifts to offence

IBM is going social in a bid to invigorate its Lotus brand

Announced last month at Lotusphere, Lotus Quickr and Lotus Connections are for what it calls business-strength social computing, which covers everything from creating blogs and wikis to building teams for collaboration.

Forrester Research analyst Erica Driver believes the applications will give Microsoft’s collaborative software a run for its money.

“It’s the first time one of the enterprise software companies has embraced social computing in a big way,” she said in an interview.

“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 Lotus Notes.

“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.”

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, a user could send a link to a document rather than an attached file in an e-mail.

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 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.

Builds communities
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.

Lotus also said that final betas of Notes/Domino 8.0 will be released this month.