IBM released Lotus Connections 2.5 Sept. 22, bringing the promised microblogging capability into the application's profiles tool, file sharing and a customizable widgets for the communities pages.
Lotus Connections is IBM's foray into social software for the enterprise and features profile, blog, activity, social bookmarking and community tools that help business workers connect with colleagues. The suite competes with collaboration offerings from Microsoft, Socialtext, Jive Software, MindTouch and other specialists.
Lotus Connections 2.5 borrows the Twitter-like microblogging tool from IBM's Beehive social network research project and allows users to post status updates to share what they are doing or working on with colleagues and contacts in their professional network. Accompanying that tool is a new message board feature on users' profile pages that lets colleagues post messages and comment on status updates.
Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM's Lotus Software Group, said that while he doesn't have time to broadcast thoughts to his team via full-length blogs, he is constantly sending status updates with this feature to communicate with them.
"I can watch what people are doing, what customer briefings are happening, what analyst or press briefings are happening, view feedback and answer questions immediately," Picciano said, summarizing his use case with the feature in Connections 2.5.
File sharing has become table stakes among customers considering collaboration platforms, which is why Lotus Connections 2.5 also provides a new Web-based file-sharing library. In this repository, users upload presentations, YouTube videos and documents to share with colleagues.
However, this file-share repository isn't just a dumb container. Users can tag, rate, recommend and comment on uploaded files to provide feedback for fellow collaborators. Picciano said Sogeti, a Capgemini subsidiary that specializes in technology services; Colgate Palmolive; and NEC Electronics GmbH in Europe are using this capability in Connections to let their employees share content.
While Connections' community owners have long been able to incorporate bookmarks, feeds and forums into their pages, these proprietors can now add activities, blogs, wikis and file sharing. This feature boosts the collaboration quotient of Connections and underscores the way the Lotus team is making the Connections features interoperate with one another.
In a minor user interface change, the community discussion forum now displays user profile photos, and a statistics feature highlights the most popular discussion topics in a community. Discussion topics can be "pinned" at the top of the forum.
A revamped new wiki service lets Connections users create, view, edit and contribute to content that is uploaded to the intranet. This wiki now has automatic versioning and a "show changes" view so that users can easily view the latest versions and edits.
Finally, Connections 2.5, which is available now in 25 languages, also lets corporate road warriors access their profiles, activities and blog services from Apple iPhones and Nokia S60 devices.
The Lotus Connections 2.5 launch corresponds with the one-year anniversary of IBM's Center for Social Software, which company officials celebrated in a symposium at the center in Cambridge, Mass., today.
The launch is fitting as Lotus Connections developed under the aegis of IBM Research and harbors many of the kinds of technologies IBM expects to cultivate in the Center for Social Software.
Looking ahead, Picciano said IBM expects to bring many of the features existing today in Connections 2.5 to IBM's Web browser-based Lotus Live Connections application, which the company hosts on its servers. Currently, the app is fairly bare bones, offering only profiles, activities, file sharing and Web conferencing.