IBM will announce Monday that Lotus Sametime, version 7.5, the company’s instant messaging and collaboration tool, will integrate with Microsoft Outlook, Office, and SharePoint applications.
The company also said Sametime 7.5 will directly connect to mobile Research in Motion (RIM), Nokia, and Windows Mobile devices.
The announcement is being made on the same day that Microsoft is expected to unveil its unified communications strategy and the timing is not coincidental, according to Matthew Brown, a senior analyst at Forrester.
“This is a full frontal assault on Microsoft’s communications strategy,” Brown said.
He said both vendors are targeting the convergence of e-mail, instant messaging, and voice and those enterprise customers moving to the capabilities that it offers.
IBM’s Sametime technology, built on the Eclipse Deployment Platform and integrated with Outlook will allow users to escalate an e-mail into an IM and from an IM with a single click into a VoIP phone conversation.
Not merely a pop-up IM window in Outlook, Office applications or in SharePoint, Sametime creates an availability icon, a small green box, next to any name in the document. A user need only click on the name of the sender of an e-mail, for example, and an IM communication begins.
Other features that will be available using Sametime in Microsoft applications include sharing an application or launching a Web conference.
The Deployment Platform allows companies to run on multiple operating systems and to create plug-ins.
“Essentially we built an IM application on top of the Eclipse platform,” said David Marshak, director of IBM Lotus Collaboration Technology.
Forrester’s Brown said the IBM news is also significant as it relates to open source.
“IBM has started to become synonymous with interoperability and open source whereas Microsoft has never had a strong message in that area,” Brown said.
Whereas enterprise customers may not be ready for some of Sametime’s more forward-looking capabilities, such as location-based technology that can be used in a mashup with a contact database and Google maps to view the location of team members, instant messaging is something companies want.
“Users have discovered it is a real productivity tool and that message is now being heard by enterprise IT,” Brown said.
Because the application is built on an Eclipse platform, Marshak said it will be very easy for third-party ISVs to build plug-ins to Sametime. Some of the plug-ins already being deployed by IBM include a video conferencing plug-in built by Avastar and a call center technology from Instant Technologies. The call center plug-in is being used by the Canadian Navy to create what it calls Officer of the Day, a service that looks for availability not by person but by role within the organization.
Sametime 7.5 will also offer access to the public instant messaging networks such as AOL, Yahoo, and Google.
Lotus Sametime 7.5 will ship in the third quarter. Mobile support is expected in the fourth quarter. Integration with Microsoft Sharepoint, Outlook 2000 and above, and Office XP is expected early in ‘07.
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