Lotus adds collaboration to Notes 6.5

Keeping a promise to customers of more rapid releases to highlight innovation, IBM Corp. announced Monday the latest version of Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5, incorporating collaboration features to bring increased productivity and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) to its customers.

The company has blended the Notes offering with its Sametime product to bring integrated IBM Lotus Instant Messaging (IM) capability, which gives users the ability to initiate IM sessions from their e-mail inboxes or other collaborative applications, rather than having to open a new application window.

According to Tim Kounadis, senior marketing manager with IBM’s Lotus Software Group in Cambridge, Mass., customers are seeking a unified view of their collaboration applications. Through the Lotus Workplace for Notes strategy, IBM is delivery a “unified dashboard” across all these applications.

“The instant messaging integration is so exciting because it is so pervasive,” Kounadis explained. “When you are inside the Notes inbox, you know immediately if an (e-mail) sender is online and ready to talk. You don’t have to access another application. You can chat with the sender or anyone on the to: or cc: lists, or all at the same time.”

Kounadis noted other new features included in 6.5, such as the ability to flag e-mail messages and a new colour-coding system to let users know whether they have replied or forwarded messages. The company has also announced enhanced support for Linux. Through the Domino Web Access feature, Linux users get Mozilla browser support, whereby access is enabled through any Web browser.

In addition to the collaboration capabilities, IBM has also enhanced spam-filtering capabilities. Through a blacklist feature, users can block messages as they come in. Any additional incoming messages from the same domain or source are then automatically transferred to a rejected list or junk mailbox. Notes 6.5 users can also take a more granular approach using a wizard feature in the rules engine that can be set to take a particular action before unwanted e-mail is delivered to the users’ inbox.

Despite increased competition from the likes of Microsoft Corp. and its Live Communications Server – formerly code-named Greenwich – Lotus is very well positioned as a full solution in terms of collaboration, said Dana Gardner, senior analyst with the Yankee Group in Boston. Gardner noted that combining the strengths of Lotus Notes and Sametime makes sense for IBM, as does incorporating IM into the fray.

“There are a lot of things that are done with full-fledged e-mail that don’t actually need to be done with full-fledged e-mail,” Gardner said. “Using IM capabilities actually cuts down the load on your network…makes users more productive and provides return on investment quicker.”

Gardner added that while Microsoft and IBM are both in the process of “seeking a balance between componentization and integration,” in the long run, the two feature sets will be difficult to tell apart.

“What users and IT administrators will be looking at (in the future) is TCO and the impact on servers, storage and their networks,” he said. “(Microsoft and IBM) will have to compete on price, which will always benefit the end user.”

Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5 will ship at the end of this month. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, IBM is offering all Lotus 6.5 customers with active maintenance agreements a license allowing up to 20 individual users to take advantage of the IM feature at no charge. For more information, visit www.ibm.com. In Canada, IBM is on the Web at www.ibm.com/ca/en/.

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