IBM Adds More Social Networking Features to LotusLive
October 11, 2010 Alex Woodie
IBM shook up its LotusLive suite of business collaboration and social networking tools last week. First, it added a new feature called “communities,” which gives companies new ways to collaborate with their customers and business partners. IBM also unveiled a new pricing scheme that gives users all LotusLive functions for $10 per user per month.
When you think of “social networking,” the name IBM probably isn’t the first one to pop into your head. For one thing, the company is almost 100 years old. That’s like 95 percent older than Facebook. Also, Big Blue’s products have a reputation for being kind of conservative and not on the cutting edge of awesomeness, like that other company’s are. Despite these knocks, IBM is determined to keep putting more social networking stuff in its business software offerings, as it did last week with the version 1.3 update to LotusLive.
LotusLive, if you don’t know already, is a collection of cloud-based applications. In some ways, it provides cloud-based access to stuff that’s already available with the regular on-premise Lotus Notes/Domino suite of software, things like email, instant messaging, calendaring, and contact lists–but it’s run in IBM data centers instead of your company’s data center, which means more time for you to
The core element of the suite is LotusLive Engage, which is designed to be a social networking platform for businesses. A company can use Engage to collaborate with colleagues via forums or invite them to an online meeting or Webinar, which Engage will also run and manage. In addition to address book and Web conferencing tools, Engage includes survey creation tools, charting capabilities, and file sharing and storage functions. It was introduced in early 2008 under its original name, BlueHouse.
LotusLive Connections is the same as LotusLive Engage, except it doesn’t have the Web conferencing, charting, and survey creation tools. IBM added LotusLive Connections to the LotusLive suite in the summer of 2009 as the cloud-based version of the Lotus Connections software, a Web-based product launched in 2007 that allows teams to collaborate through blogs, wikis, forums, and shared libraries. (You can see that the LotusLive products have different origins and evolutionary tracks, and don’t necessarily track one-to-one with on-premise-based versions of Lotus Notes and Domino software. IBM has also struggled with consistent branding.)
So, the big new thing that IBM added last week with the launch of LotusLive version 1.3 was the addition of the “communities” feature to the LotusLive Engage and LotusLive Connections dashboards. According to IBM, the communities feature allows users to do five things they couldn’t do before: tag information, share files and bookmarks, create activities, track projects, and host discussion forum across multiple companies.
These new capabilities will help companies work more closely with partners and customers while becoming more efficient, according to Sean Poulley, who holds the relatively simple IBM title of vice president of cloud collaboration. Companies can get these capabilities from IBM, which (while not being the top name in social networking) is “a company they trust and is focused on security and reliability,” Poulley says.
IBM also announced that it is making a hosted version of the Lotus Notes email client available through LotusLive. LotusLive Notes costs $5 per person per month, and comes with pretty advanced calendaring functions. The Sametime instant messaging client is also integrated into this product, which is offered as an alternative to the previously available Web-based email offering, called LotusLive iNotes (the little i there means “Web-based email” in this instance, not grandson of the AS/400).
IBM also changed the pricing model for LotusLive. You can now get the complete LotusLive Collaboration Suite for $10 per person per month. That gets you access to the best of everything that LotusLive has to offer, which includes the Engage dashboard and LotusLive Notes email. Customers who just need sub-components, such as the LotusLive Events or LotusLive Meetings modules, or the Notes or iNotes email clients, can purchase access to those separately.
Version 1.3 brings some improvements to LotusLive Meetings, including the capability to store recordings of meetings in Microsoft Windows Media Video (WMV) format. Apple Macintosh users can now share their applications while hosting a presentation. Support for the Greek, Turkish, Portuguese, Russian, and Polish languages is now available throughout the suite.
Two third-party service providers have also announced the integration of their services with LotusLive. Tungle offers a calendaring services that synchronizes with customers’ existing electronic calendar to speed up the process of finding meeting times that are agreeable to groups, while Bricsys offers a Web-based project management service called Vondle that makes it easy to share documents, tasks, and reports. Services from both companies are now accessible through LotusLive. Other Web applications that have been integrated with LotusLive include Skype and Salesforce.com.
IBM also announced some recent LotusLive customers, including aatranslations, a European language translation service provider that uses the software to collaborate with 7,000 clients and 700 translators in 20 countries; SIT La Precisa, an Italian electronics manufacturer that uses the software for internal company collaboration; and Signature Mortgage Corp of Canton, Ohio, which is using LotusLive to allow clients to electronically review and sign mortgage applications from their home or office.
For more information, see announcement letter 210-343.
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