IBM Expands Line of Collaboration Software Products

IBM also said the long-awaited next release of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, known until now as "Hannover," will enter the public beta phase of its testing in February and should be generally available mid-year. "This is the largest expansion of our collaboration portfolio ever," IBM Lotus general manager Michael Rhodin said in a press conference at the Lotusphere 2007 conference in Orlando, Fla.

Earlier, in a keynote presentation before the show's 7,000 attendees, Rhodin said the enhanced product line adds momentum to Notes, which expanded its user base by 1 million seats during the past four months.

Rhodin said workers today are overwhelmed with information presented in multiple forms and often duplicated through multiple channels.

"If it was presented to them better, they would be much more productive," he said.

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Enter IBM Lotus Connections social-networking software, which uses employee profiles to help users locate people with expertise needed for projects and other business activities. Like MySpace and other consumer-oriented social networking systems, Connections identifies people within like-minded communities and allows them to communicate using Sametime's chat capabilities.

The software also provides bookmarking, blogging, and activity- and project-tracking tools. Connections is slated to be available toward the end of the second quarter.

In addition, IBM unveiled Quickr -- software that helps information workers find documents and other media content and share it with co-workers in real-time. A connector to Lotus Notes, for example, lets users share attachments in a content library and send links to that content -- instead of the attachments themselves -- to co-workers. The software also supports the IBM WebSphere Portal repository and Microsoft SharePoint repository. Later this year, IBM will provide a link to content repositories from FileNet, the content management software vendor IBM acquired last year.

Users also will be able to search the content using Microsoft Windows Explorer and share the content through RSS-enabled applications. IBM said Quickr offers a greater range of capabilities than the current Quickplace software; owners of the older product will be able to upgrade their licenses to the new software. A standard edition of Quickr is due to ship by mid-year, while a personal edition, offered free to Notes and Domino owners, will be ready sometime in the third quarter.

Version 8 of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, meanwhile, continues to move closer to reality: IBM announced the product's beta test at last year's Lotusphere conference and the first beta copies were shipped late last year. The software offers a completely new look and feel, IBM execs say, and supports Macintosh, Linux and Windows platforms -- including the new Windows Vista.

The new software offers document editors in the standard Open Document Format and the ability to build composite "mashup" applications. Those capabilities, as well as a dashboard view of recently sent e-mail and chat sessions, move Notes beyond e-mail to become more of an activity management system, according to IBM.

IBM also announced Sametime 7.5.1, a new release of its instant messaging and collaboration software with new point-to-point video capabilities, integration with Microsoft Outlook and Office applications, and support for Linux and Macintosh servers. That product will ship in April. And a new release of the IBM WebSphere Portal, dubbed the "Express" version and shipping Jan. 30, is designed for small and midsize businesses with 1,000 or fewer employees.

WebSphere Portal Express will be priced at $2,300 per 20-user pack or $39,999 per processor. Pricing for the other new products have not been set.