IBMs announcements at the companys Lotusphere 2007 show here represent the "most dramatic expansion of collaborative technology ever," according to Michael Rhodin, general manager of IBM Lotus, particularly as opposed to competitive alternatives "that tell you what you have to buy."
Foremost among the new technologies IBM announced on Jan. 22 is Lotus Connections, which enables users to gather and share information through social networks and provides dashboard views of projects, people and connections in various communities.
The Lotus Connections software borrows from IBMs deep research pockets and features five Web 2.0 technologies: Activities, Communities, Dogear, Profiles and Blogs. Activities is a Lotus technology that shares and organizes e-mail, instant messages, documents and other items related to a particular activity or project into one logical unit. Dogear is social bookmarking software that enables users to bookmark pages within their intranet. Both technologies came out of IBM Research. >
Rhodin called Lotus Connections "the industrys first ready-for-business social software platform to connect us to you, and you to us, and you to each other and to others beyond this room."
Jeff Schick, vice president of social software for Lotus, said the "interaction of Web 2.0 technologies with IBM research resulted in IBM Lotus Connections."
Tsvi Gal, chief technology officer of Deutsche Bank, said when his organization went looking for social software tools, "there were tools but they were individual tools. We wanted one package. We are a Lotus Notes shop, so it made sense for us to work with IBM to make social networking appealing to our organization. At Deutsche Bank, I dont know 7,500 people, but I can access each and every one of them" via the social networking software the company has been working with.
Stephen OGrady, an analyst with market research firm RedMonk, of Denver, called the new IBM social software "very interesting," adding that "the knock on collaboration software is that it has been around for more than 20 years. Weve had e-mail and calendaring forever, and evolution has been incremental. But in just a couple of years weve seen a lot of action with open-source collaboration tools like del.icio.us. So its nice to see some of the more traditional tools get some of those capabilities."
But will businesses bite?
"As for market adoption, its hard to say what corporate adoption will be," OGrady said. "Things have been stale for a long time."
IBM Lotus also announced Quickr, collaborative content technology that enables users to share content and integrate with wikis, blogs, content repositories and other data.
Alistair Rennie, vice president of development and technical support for Lotus, described Quickr as an integrated collaboration content server supporting multiple platforms.
"Quickr is the fastest way to share information across teams," Rennie said. "You can share content with your enterprise or your business partners."
Quickr will be released in the first half of this year and will be available in a Personal Edition and a Standard Edition. The Personal Edition will enable users to share and find content, and content will be available through RSS and ATOM feeds. The Standard Edition is for enterprise use and will be available about a month or so before the Personal Edition, which will be free, Rennie said.
Lotus will integrate Quickr with a variety of applications via Quickr connectors. And later this year, users will be able to use Quickr with Filenet and Microsoft SharePoint repositories, IBM said.
Lotus hopes to bring its legacy customers up to the new world of Lotus, promising to give Lotus QuickPlace users access to Quickr, among other moves.
The opening keynote at Lotusphere also played to a legacy theme, including an opening act known as the Ultrasonic Rock Orchestra, which sang a series of vintage songs made famous by David Bowie, Queen, The Who and others.
While the group sang of "Ch-ch-ch-changes," IBM was prepping to unleash a fresh round of collaboration software destined to help change the way enterprises work.