Sametime, But a Different Place; IBM Tries to Top Microsoft
December 4, 2007 Dan Burger
For those of you who enjoy watching and participating in the IBM vs. Microsoft tussle for supremacy in unified communications and collaborative software, make a note of the latest IBM Lotus Sametime products hitting the streets this week. They are Sametime Standard 8 and Sametime Entry. Each product offers features that many small to mid size companies will find important for comparison shopping, but not likely to cause anyone to place an order tomorrow.
Lotus Sametime Standard follows the product line established by what was formerly known simply as Sametime. The version known as Sametime Entry has, as you might expect, an abbreviated feature set. It is forecasted that sometime in the first quarter of 2008, these two products will be joined by Sametime Advanced. The numeral 8 does not indicate seven previous versions of Sametime; it simply ties the product with the latest version of Notes and Domino, which was introduced in August.
Lotus designed Sametime Entry for small to mid size organizations that have figured out there are many reasons for avoiding the public instant messaging services and other IM options that IBM likes to refer to as proprietary without mentioning Microsoft by name. Big Blue prefers to keep things fairly civil in its “official” press release information; however, it eagerly makes the points that Sametime Entry also has an advantage by not requiring desktop or server upgrades. One of the reasons IBM likes to throw out the proprietary card is because Microsoft unified communications only integrates with other Microsoft productivity software.
nSametime Standard 8 is touted Sametime is based on the open source Eclipse platform and therefore Eclipse-based development tools are used to increase functionality. Eclipse is also used as the foundation for Notes 8, which Lotus officials point out makes Notes a platform for a broad range of composite applications as well as traditional Notes domains.
It’s no coincidence that Sametime integrates with Microsoft Outlook and Office. It wouldn’t be much of a collaboration tool if it didn’t do that. However, to its credit, it also plays with open source alternatives, which appeals to the cost-conscious purchasing agents. Sametime Entry is priced lower than the more feature-laden Sametime Standard. That should come as no surprise. But it might surprise some who are not expecting to find built-in encryption in an entry-level product. Take note, however, that Sametime Entry does not interoperate with public IM networks.
According to Bruce Morse, vice president of unified communications and collaboration for IBM Lotus, the core real-time IM capabilities in Sametime Entry–things like multi-person chat, presence awareness, spell check, rich text capabilities, emoticon support, and contact-list management features–come from the Lotus Notes products that have been in use for years. In other words, it’s been road tested and proved to be worthy in real-life business operations. The implication, of course, is that competing IM products are consumer-grade.
Sametime Standard 8 is touted by IBM officials as being “a full set” of unified communication and collaboration capabilities. Its list of features include instant messaging; VoIP, Web, and point-to-point video conferencing capabilities; mobile client support; interoperability with public IM networks; and a model for custom application plug-ins. Those features are carried over from the previous Sametime release (7.5.1), which became available in April. At that time Sametime pricing was established as $57 per-user license fee.
Features that have been added to Sametime Standard 8 include:
If you are wondering what features will be available in the Sametime Advanced product that is yet to be released, it is expected to include permanent chat room capabilities that allow users to come and go, the capability to set up communities based on specific expertise so that question and answer or problem and solution scenarios can be addressed by people outside the known community, and screen sharing so a person can see the desktop of the person with whom they are communicating.
For an overview of the Microsoft Sharepoint Server 2007 and Exchange Server 2007, which together offer a feature set that is similar to Sametime, take a look at “Microsoft On Schedule for Big Launch November 30” in The Windows Observer.
Pricing on Sametime Entry is $20 per user, including maintenance, for the first year and maintenance only for the following years. Sametime Standard is priced at $56.75 per user, including maintenance, for the first year, with only a maintenance fee for subsequent years.
In a related note, IBM announced it has released two additional WebSphere Portal accelerators for use in training, development, and education projects. The accelerators, IBM’s term for templates that speed WebSphere Portal projects, are delivered through a Sametime Web conference. The latest additions to the accelerator portfolio are Learning Accelerator and Business Process Accelerator.
IBM began introducing WebSphere Portal accelerators in April in order to simplify and therefore speed the deployment of portals. The majority of portal projects involve internal uses such as employee benefits and other personnel matters, which are set up on a self-service basis.
Sametime plays a role in this because it gives the administrator the capability to schedule Web conferences within the framework of the learning accelerator. As an example, the user interface is integrated within the Portal environment providing the opportunity to lower administrative overhead and provide key tasks–such as managing courses, curriculums, and certificates–in one location.
The Business Process Accelerator is designed to improve both implementation and end-user response time relating to workflow tasks by virtue of its role-based, personalized access to information, applications, and data.
Previously released accelerators include Self-Service Accelerator for human resources tasks, Dashboard Accelerator, Collaboration Accelerator for team collaboration, Content Accelerator for building and managing websites, and Enterprise Suite Accelerator which supports multiple portal projects, including Web content management and electronic forms.
The accelerators are packaged with the latest version of WebSphere Portal 6, and existing users can purchase individual accelerators and snap them onto their environments. Learning Accelerator is available now for $36 per user. Business Process Accelerator consists of IBM WebSphere Portal Server and IBM Lotus Forms Server. Those products are available now at $515 per value unit and $400 per value unit, respectively.