LOTUSPHERE: IBM unveils slate of upcoming Lotus products

IBM Corp.’s Lotus software group kicked off its Lotusphere user show in Orlando Monday with a flurry of announcements about upcoming products.

Heading the list is a new, still-unnamed e-mail system aimed at the lower end of the corporate market. The goal to tap customers who are not seeking a full messaging suite such as Lotus Notes, according to Ken Bisconti, Lotus’ vice-president of messaging and advanced collaboration.

The Java-based software will take advantage of technologies from throughout IBM’s portfolio, including its DB2 database, portal framework and mobile-access features, Bisconti said. Now in beta testing, the software is scheduled to ship during the second quarter. Pricing has not yet been announced, although Bisconti said the price tag will be comparable to that of other products for the low-end market, which he estimated at around US$5 to US$10 per user, per month.

IBM also announced plans for a new e-learning product to replace its LearningSpace training software. The new IBM Lotus Learning Management System is intended as an end-to-end e-learning platform, with a range of content delivery and management options and connections to other enterprise software such as ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and HR (human resources) systems.

IBM will continue supporting LearningSpace, but the Lotus Learning Management System is the product IBM will be steering new customers toward, Bisconti said.

The Lotus Learning Management System runs on IBM pSeries servers (running IBM’s AIX operating system), Microsoft Windows NT/2000, Linux on Intel processors, and Sun’s Solaris operating system. Supported databases include IBM’s DB2, Oracle and SQL. An English version of the software will be out in late February, with other languages following in the next few months. The software will be available through Lotus resellers, at a suggested price of around US$60 per user.

IBM also said it is continuing on its path of more tightly integrating Lotus’ portfolio with technology from throughout IBM’s software group.

New collaboration capabilities will be included in the next version of IBM’s WebSphere Portal software, based on Lotus technology, allowing users to work with applications such as corporate white pages, organizational charts, instant messages and team workplace. For example, users will be able to search for colleagues throughout organizational directories and initiate contact via instant messaging, or track from their portal interface and interact with workplaces to which they belong.

Also on the integration front, IBM said it will soon release the IBM Lotus Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio. The kit will make it easier for developers using WebSphere Studio to build Domino capabilities into their applications, Bisconti said, and will be available as a free download from IBM’s Web site. A beta version is available now at www.lotus.com/ldd/beta/.

Finally, IBM said it will release during the third quarter IBM Lotus Sametime Everyplace 3, the latest version of its mobile instant-messaging software. Previously, Sametime Everyplace worked only with mobile phones. The latest version will support Pocket PC and Palm OS handhelds.