IBM adds collaboration tools to Lotus Notes

Users of IBM Corp.’s Lotus Notes now have the option to add a little more collaboration to their workday as Big Blue on Wednesday released one new Lotus Workplace product, and added new features to three others. This, the company said, will allow users to add capabilities such as e-mail, instant messaging (IM), and Web conferencing to business apps and portals.

Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration 1.1 is brand new and integrates IM, team spaces such as discussion forums and document management, and Web conferencing so users in different locations can collaborate on projects. Right now it doesn’t and won’t integrate third-party IM clients such as MSN Messenger and AOL Instant Messenger.

The standards-based IBM Lotus Workplace Messaging 1.1 integrates with a variety of messaging clients including Lotus Domino, portals, Web browsers, standards-based e-mail clients and other Lotus Workplace offerings. New features include support for personal calendars, expanded client and server platforms and an updated user interface based on IBM’s Websphere Portal. [Please see Lotus targets workers without permanent workstations.]

IBM has also updated its Lotus Learning Management System (LMS) and is rebranding it as Lotus Workplace Collaborative Learning 1.1. Designed specifically for e-learning, the offering keeps track of students, their activities and performance, and can deliver material in a timely fashion.

Big Blue is also took advantage of technology it acquired from content management developer Presence Online Pty Ltd., also known as Aptrix, which it purchased in July, and has developed Lotus Workplace Web Content Management 1.1. The product allows users to create, publish, manage and archive Web-based content within a company’s intranet, extranet and on the Internet.

All the Workplace products now have the same graphical user interface.

“The workplace is the next focus for enterprises wanting to improve productivity and in terms of connecting people, process and information,” said Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Meta Group Inc., in Stamford, Conn.

He explained that companies are interested in collaboration, but are also interested in reducing the amount of vendors that they deal with, so they will not be jumping into the collaboration ring lightly.

IBM is not the only company focusing on collaboration, he noted. Microsoft Corp. has made collaboration an integral part of its Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft Office 2003. SAP AG has also been talking about workplace productivity by integrating team rooms and IM in its portal framework, and Oracle Corp. is another company making noise in the are, he said. Gotta explained he thinks adoption of these technologies will be slow and IBM’s success will be based upon Domino users who migrate over to Workplace. The migration would likely take time as Domino users try to preserve as much of their investment in Domino as possible.

“This idea of a workplace environment is going to have architecture groups and infrastructure planners take a step back,” he said. “They will be looking at all the independent decisions they’ve made in terms of application servers, directory services, and security and try to get them to be more cohesive. So this fusion around a workplace metaphor – with [Microsoft’s] Office System and now Lotus Workplace – that’s going to be the trend in collaboration in the next couple of years.”

Big Blue’s Workplace offerings support SuSE Linux AG’s Linux versions 7.2 and 7.3 on Intel 32-bit platforms, IBM’s AIX v5.2, and Microsoft Windows Server 2000. Supported client operating systems include Microsoft Windows 2003 service pack 3, XP, and SuSE’s Linux versions 7.2 and 7.3.

Supported Web browsers include Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 5.5 service pack 2, Internet Explorer 6, and Mozilla 1.3.

The products are priced on a per user basis. Lotus Workplace Messaging 1.1 will retail at US$29 per user, while Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration will cost US$89 per user, and the Lotus Workplace Collaborative Learning 1.1 will be available for US$35 per user. The Lotus Workplace Web Content Management 1.1 is priced at US$49,999 per CPU.

In Canada, IBM is based in Markham, Ont. Visit the company online at www.ibm.ca.