Mobile social networking is expected to grow from 82 million users in 2007 to over 800 million worldwide by 2012. IBM and RIM are getting set to ride the wave, announcing May 14 plans to bring a full line of Lotus collaboration software to the BlackBerry.
Large and midsize organizations will have access to a suite of collaboration, social networking, messaging and unified communications capabilities for mobile employees. Users will also have access to the IBM WebSphere Portal and to IBM dashboard software that allows businesses build Web sites and single-screen dashboard views delivering information, applications and processes personalized to the individual user on Research In Motion's BlackBerry smart phones.
"We're working primarily with our Lotus brand to take the laptop experience and allow users to take it with them in their pocket," said Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM's vice president of messaging and collaboration software. "RIM makes it economical to deploy with its emphasis on security."
In a keynote address at WES in Orlando, Fla., Bob Picciano, general manager of Lotus Software, said CEOs consistently list collaborative innovation as important in the drive to "optimize their businesses through people working together in more meaningful ways. For example, I can find expertise exactly when and where I need it through Lotus Connections on my BlackBerry-a tremendous asset whether I'm on the road or in the office."
Cavanaugh said Lotus Connections is based on IBM's in-house collaborative software known as the Blue Pages. "It's the most used application in the company," Cavanaugh said. "Our average worker hits it about 20 times a day."
Teenagers as the radar for coming trends
Beyond business, IBM predicts that the mobile Web market for consumer services such as entertainment and e-mail will reach $80 billion by 2011, more than a 36 percent annual growth. Cavanaugh keeps a keen eye on developments in that market, he said.
"We very much watch the consumer market," Cavanaugh said. "What teenagers and college students use usually eventually turns out to be very useful. And, as the baby boomers retire, younger managers are going to have more influence on what tools get used."
Instant messaging, for example, was initially a hard sell for IBM. Cavanaugh said it was widely perceived by management as something their teenagers used and as being of no practical use to the enterprise. "These types of changes do take time, but the rate and pace is increasing," he said. "IM eventually took off like wildfire in the enterprise."
IBM's Lotus Sametime on the BlackBerry allows users to access their full buddy lists, send and receive instant messages, view presence information and click on a name to start a call.
"The complete portfolio of collaboration and communications features of the Lotus collaboration suite together with the push-based architecture, end-to-end security and manageability of the proven and widely adopted BlackBerry platform is unmatched in the industry," Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, said in a statement.