IBM Lotus Foundations Reach Adds Instant Messaging, VOIP

IBM Lotus Foundations Reach brings VOIP, instant messaging, presence and several more messaging and collaboration tools to its Lotus Foundations Start appliance. The offerings are aimed at Microsoft's Office, Small Business Server and Office Communications Server suites. IBM also created widgets to let users access LinkedIn and TripIt from Lotus Notes.

IBM July 15 said it is adding instant messaging, VOIP, file transfer and several more options to its Lotus Foundations appliance, a Linux-based collaboration server the company makes for its business partners to sell small to midsize businesses.

IBM next month will offer Lotus Foundations Reach for $70 per user for existing customers of the Lotus Foundations "Start" appliance, which costs $229 per server and $149 per user for the software.

IBM began selling Lotus Foundations in the second quarter of 2008 as a cost-effective alternative to Microsoft Office, Small Business Server and Office Communications Server.

The original offering included the Lotus Notes and Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, backup and recovery, anti-virus, anti-spam, and Lotus Symphony office productivity tools.

The hardware/software combo is designed to get customers with small or no IT departments up and running with minimal effort. Moreover, the software in the box automates administrative tasks such as adjusting itself according to workload demands on the fly, doing system checks for security and reliability, and detecting and repairing flaws.

Timed for Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference this week, where the company released Office 2010 to technical preview and pledged the November arrival of its Azure operating system, Lotus Foundations Reach borrows features from IBM's Lotus Sametime UCC (unified communications and collaboration) suite.

These include rich text, time stamps, spell check, emoticons, point-to-point video, integrated chat histories, location awareness, contact list with type-ahead and search, and contact business cards.

These tools complement the synchronous VOIP, instant messaging and presence tools leveraged from Sametime, IBM Lotus General Manager Bob Picciano told eWEEK. "For companies that are looking at ways to manage their office costs, IP-based telephony is an interesting value proposition."

Lotus Foundations partners currently include such companies as Envision, NextiraOne Mexico, ShoreTel and Speech Design.

While he declined to say how many companies are using Lotus Foundations or how many Foundations servers IBM has sold, Picciano said more than 1,000 Microsoft partners have signed up to resell Lotus Foundations in 2009. The reason? A more cost-effective solution at a time of financial distress.

IBM claims it costs companies $5,260 to run Lotus Foundations Reach on top of Foundations Start for 23 users, the average seat count for a Foundations contract. That compares with $17,551 it costs businesses to run Microsoft Office Communication Server, Microsoft Small Business Server and Microsoft Office for 23 users.

IBM today also introduced two new Lotus Notes software widgets to let users tap into the LinkedIn enterprise social network and TripIt travel management applications so many business workers use on a daily basis.

Picciano said LinkedIn and TripIt can now be opened via single sign-on right from the Lotus Notes desktop screen.

For example, a Notes user who has added the widget to his Notes client will see a contact's name as a live link in a calendar entry. Right-clicking on the name will let him look up the contact in LinkedIn.

This is a big convenience for Lotus Notes users, who will find value in being able to access popular business tools without leaving the Notes app.

More than 43 million professionals connect on LinkedIn, while TripIt organizes trip details, along with maps, directions and weather forecasts, into a master itinerary.