IBM is taking its social software efforts out of its own lab and into the more open IBM Center for Social Software, an incubator lab where IBM's customers and partners, as well as university faculty and students, can create social software together that will aid in building enterprisewide collaboration among customers, partners and employees.
Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus software and WebSphere Portal, will announce the Cambridge, Mass.-based center in his keynote at Interop in New York Sept. 17.
I spoke with IBM Center for Social Software Director and IBM Fellow Irene Greif, as well as Jeff Schick, vice president of social software at IBM, last week for the details.
Greif said that while IBM has engaged in social experiments both internally and externally, the center will formalize the company's efforts to attract the top social computing scientists from around the world and get them to collaborate with IBM and its customers and partners.
"We'll co-invent some things while they're here," Greif confirmed to me.
The collaboration will help shape IBM's Web 2.0 collaboration portfolio, including social discovery, social search and new cloud computing efforts for social software. Ideally, this type of collaboration will yield better, more innovative social software, including what IBM says are the "next killer Web 2.0 applications."
"We're going to be more focused on explicitly taking on projects that will change our route to market, that will help us work more closely with Lotus, but also develop paths to our own internal deployments that will keep us at the leading edge of social software," Greif said.
Schick added that the center will help with the heavy lifting of making products available to 120 countries around the planet in as many languages as possible.
The allure of such a center for IBM is obvious at a practical level. IBM sells a social software suite called Lotus Connections, which includes bookmarking tools such as Dogear, as well as employee profiles, communities, blogs and activities.