IBM Claims Unified Communications Lead With Sametime Upgrade

Sametime 7.5 costs $55 per user, and maintenance runs about 20 percent of the license cost. The product supports Windows, Macintosh and Linux clients. A Linux server is due out next year.

IBM executives characterize Sametime 7.5 is an all-in-one unified communications solution. It includes basic VoIP connection to other SameTime users. To extend that with click-to-call or soft phone capabilities add-ons are required.

Avaya Meeting Exchange for Sametime, for instance, adds multiparty click-to-conferencing and conference management, with administrators being able to perform such tasks as muting noisy lines. Similarly, an Avistar plug-in integrates videoconferencing with Sametime.

"What's exciting here is the partners -- Siemens, Radvision, Avistar, Facetime -- all lining up to support Sametime. There are nearly 100 business partners working with us on this," said Ken Bisconti, vice president of product management at Lotus Software, at the Sametime 7.5 launch event in New York.

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"Dassault Systemes has a plug-in that enables businesses to share, inspect and sync up 3-D images over Sametime," Bisconti said. France-based Dassault is a leading maker of CAD/CAM and life-cycle management software.

IBM, and Lotus Development as an independent entity before IBM acquired it in 1995, are leaders in collaborative software but have often been out-marketed in this market by Microsoft. The Redmond, Wash., software giant plans its own unified communications onslaught next year.