Cisco, IBM Team Up on Collaboration Client Platform

The companies will team up to further the cause of richer collaboration with the launch of a new, open platform for third-party developers.

Cisco Systems and IBM on March 7 at VoiceCon in Orlando, Fla., will team up to further the cause of richer collaboration with the launch of a new, open platform for third-party developers.

The new UC2 platform for unified communications and collaboration client development is intended to allow developers to create plug-ins to extend clients such as the Microsoft Exchange Outlook client or IBMs Same Time instant messaging.

Both vendors are contributing application program interfaces to form the foundation of the client development platform.

IBM for its part will provide a subset of Lotus Sametime collaboration APIs, and Cisco will provide communication APIs for access to voice and video services. The platform also leverages the open Eclipse development environment.

The ultimate aim of the open platform is to "give more power to end users who can access different applications from within a single client environment," according to Rick McConnell, vice president and general manager Ciscos Unified Communications Business Unit in San Jose, Calif.

"Were seeing a proliferation of clients to the desktop, [but] end users want to live within one or two client environments and have seamless access to a variety of other applications. Were enabling that to be done through open standards so that third-party developers can provide access to their applications from this open approach," said McConnell.

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IBMs Sametime 7.5 client for Instant Messaging and Web conferencing is already built on the new platform, and Cisco will move its client development to the platform to insure compatibility with third-party applications, and future versions of the Cisco Unified Personal Communicator client will be based on the platform.

The two vendors also pledged to provide integration between specific products and develop a joint offering. By mid-year IBMs Lotus Sametime will allow users to send Instant Messages to and from Cisco Unified IP Phones as well as view and play Cisco Unity voice messages and click-to-call other users from within the Sametime client version 7.5.1.

For example, a Sametime user while having an IM chat with a colleague could click on the colleagues name to place a phone call to them or to another user on the buddy list. Or from within Sametime users could launch a video telephony session, according to McConnell.

In the latter half of this year, the two vendors will release a joint product that combines Lotus Sametime functions with Cisco federated presence information, a soft phone, hard phone control, call history, conferencing and video telephony.

The two vendors in the second half of this year also plan to integrate IBMs Sametime Web conferencing with Cisco Unified MeetingPlace audio and video conferencing.

Cisco and IBM will license the platform to developers "to maintain control of the platform, but it is open and free to use for third parties," said McConnell.

To help foster use of the UC2 platform, IBM and Cisco are recruiting third-party developers to create plug-ins to their application environments from the open client platform. They will also offer training as well as certification programs for developers to insure compatibility.

The UC2 Client Platform is due in the second half of this year, although an early software release will be available to developers in the second quarter.

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