IBM Previews Future Collaboration Technologies

In an open house, IBM's research group shows forthcoming collaboration technologies, including a drag-and-drop "object" approach to shared activities in Lotus Workplace.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.—IBM on Wednesday unveiled several new collaboration technologies still in the developmental stage at its IBM Research center here that officials say could change the way people work in the enterprise.

The technologies, some of which will start to appear in IBMs Lotus Workplace suite this year, are designed mainly to improve communications and efficiency among workers. The technology closest to availability is a new productivity component for Workplace called ActivityExplorer, which is expected to be a part of Version 3.0 of Workplace, expected to ship next quarter.

Activity Explorer combines e-mail, chat and shared workspaces in one interface. Users can share a variety of work files with each other, which are defined as "collaborative objects." This content can include shared e-mail messages, files, folders and screens and pervasive chat. Users simply drag and drop objects they want to collaborate on to the users on their contact list.

The shared objects then form "activity threads." Each object has its own access control and new collaborative activities can be started from any type of content.

/zimages/3/28571.gifStartup Five Across this week introduced its own IM service for business workgroups. Read more here about the product and business model.

Another new technology IBM Researchs Collaborative User Experience Group is preparing is called Remail, short for "Reinventing E-mail."

Though still in prototype stage, the Eclipse-based technology allows users to better organize their e-mail, such as by graphically showing e-mail threads, and grouping e-mails together by subject line, either within or outside of the inbox.

Remail also offers tighter integration between e-mail and calendaring. Similar features and others have already been implemented in Notes 6.5, according to IBM officials.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about IBMs strategy around Notes and Workplace.

IBM is also developing a collaborative development environment for Eclipse known as Jazz. This effort, being led by IBMs Rational Software group adds collaborative capabilities such as instant messaging and buddy lists, screen sharing, shared workspaces and file sharing to the Eclipse development environment.

Another effort shown here was code-name Kontiki, although its still in early stages. The software is what IBM officials called a "process whiteboard" that allows multiple users to personalize online forms and Web pages and update line items on the forms. The technology, inspired by collaborative Weblogs known as wikis, is designed to handle business processes with constantly changing requirements while gathering knowledge distributed over a group.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for a transforming change in how people work in office environments," said Mike Rhodin, vice president of development and technical support for IBMs Lotus Software division. "We can unleash productivity gains that havent been dreamed of."

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Messaging & Collaboration Center for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.


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