Keeping Microsoft and Cisco in its sights, IBM is planning to introduce variety of collaboration tools for mobile platforms where it wants to create full-featured unified communications endpoints and become the mobile collaboration vendor of choice.
Initially these mobile tools will enable calling features that, for example, determine the least expensive mode for making a phone call, but that will be expanded to include the full range of IBM collaboration and conferencing features, said Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM Lotus During an interview at IBM's new and sprawling software development facility in Littleton, Mass. With the most recent release of Lotus SameTime Unified Communications collaboration software last week, the platform now supports Blackberry 5.0 and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.5 clients.
As it accelerates its mobile plans, IBM expects to exploit its already extensive interoperability with other platforms including its major competitor in UC -- Microsoft. Its mobile support will also challenge competitor Avaya and its mobile clients. Over time, as businesses deploy 4G handhelds, IBM will fully support mobile collaboration "on the mobile device of choice" and treat the collaboration features as services, not a stack of available features but an always-available set of tools, Rennie said.
He expects customers will adopt SameTime for mobile devices via its cloud-based collaboration suite LotusLive, starting with a core of instant messaging, presence, Web meetings and some video. That will grow over time to include voice integration with corporate directories as well as full video services.
Rennie also said the company would respond to customer demand for appliances that can be used to more easily bring collaboration tools into their networks, much the same way that they can add security platforms to their networks via IBM security appliances.
IBM is also building a downloadable, browser-based plug-in so anyone can join SameTime conferences even if their machines lack SameTime clients. Later this capability will be deployed from LotusLive clouds so, for example, a bank could call a conference to talk to high-value customers and have them participate with relative ease, said Rob Ingram, IBM senior product manager for UC. The clients are already available for Web conferencing and IM, and the browser-based client for video is scheduled for the first quarter of 2011. After that the company may look into a mobile browser-based client as well, he said.