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We've previously reviewed and recommended IBM's LotusLive offerings -- including its LotusLive Meetings and LotusLive iNotes. IBM was one of the first major software companies to begin providing Web-based "mash-up" services five years ago and has over time ported much of what it has learned into its cloud-based, LotusLive suite of offerings.
Since then, IBM has continued to add functionality and improvements to LotusLive. For example, LotusLive Meetings -- which allows for interactive, online meetings with whiteboards, desktop and file sharing, audio and chat -- now provides mobile apps for both BlackBerry and iPhone. We downloaded the iPhone app, for example, to find that it's now possible to log into a LotusLive interactive meeting from your iPhone. Setup is as simple as could be, and entering a LotusLive meeting via iPhone is as easy as downloading the app from the Apple iTunes App Store, entering login and meeting ID information, and getting in. Those on the road are no longer the forgotten children of the workgroup when it comes to live, realtime collaboration. LotusLive Mobile is in beta.
IBM sets a baseline rate of $10 per month, per user, for its LotusLive Suite for online collaboration, which includes iNotes, Meetings and collaboration tools.
In addition to LotusLive, IBM provides LotusLive Labs -- which, among other things, will provide preview looks at the company's forthcoming Lotus Project Concord -- an online, collaborative document creation and sharing application. (Look out, Google Docs.)
When it comes to online collaboration solutions for enterprises of all sizes, IBM LotusLive is a must-consider.
The Bottom Line
Software vendors are making it impossible to not build robust, collaboration capabilities into day-to-day business. Where cost and complexity were challenges in the past, those challenges have clearly begun to evaporate.
Cloud-based (online) collaboration services present the same questions as any other cloud-based application or service. Is security strong enough? How about availability and performance? What about uptime? Can these services be easily managed?
For all of the above collaboration offerings, the answers are essentially the same. We found no major performance issues, all come with sound (if not basic) management and administrative tools, security is for the most part industry-standard for online collaboration, and ease of use is steady.
Microsoft SharePoint and IBM LotusLive remain top collaboration solutions for enterprises of all sizes and give solution providers opportunities to deliver significant value, service and differentiation to an entire organization.
From a functionality standpoint, Google needs to pick up its game. Not only have IBM Lotus and Microsoft expanded their enterprise collaboration gap with Google, they are now driving their differentiated technology into online productivity. For Microsoft, the company has driven much of its sound, snappy collaboration technology into its Office franchise -- creating what is a much more seamless synergy between Office 2010 and Microsoft OfficeLive -- in some respects with much greater functionality than Google Docs. It's the same way with IBM Lotus and its LotusLive; Project Concord would add a productivity layer to its online collaboration suite that would match if not surpass Google Apps.
Even Novell, with its Vibe collaboration offering, looks much more inviting in many ways than Google's offerings.
In the coming six months to a year, we would like to see more of a drive to bring these core collaboration tools to handhelds and tablets, as the major use-pattern shift toward touch and mobility continues to pick up momentum. That also would provide greater opportunities to introduce functionality like geo-location and geo-tagging to collaboration, which could be incredibly powerful to enterprises of all sizes and types. And, to better address enterprises' requirements of additional security, we'd like to see encrypted collaboration introduced into these platforms beyond the password-protection and user administration that exists today.
Given the speed at which these vendors seem to improve these collaboration solutions, we don't think that's a stretch.