Open source Sametime 7.5 allows more flexible use

Customers and third-party vendors can build and deploy plug-ins on top of the IM platform

IBM has launched an updated and more open version of its corporate instant messaging and collaboration software, Sametime.

Sametime 7.5 supports the open source development tool Eclipse, which allows customers and third-party vendors to build and deploy plug-ins on top of the IM platform.

According to IBM, nearly 100 business partners around the world are working with IBM to deliver plug-ins for Sametime. VoIP capabilities from Cisco, videoconferencing capabilities from Radvision and sharing of 3D images from Dassault Systems are a few examples.

Some of the plug-ins will be free and open source, says Edward Brill, business unit executive for Lotus Software at IBM who visited New Zealand recently.

The new version has 150 new features, says Brill. One of his favourites is the location-based awareness feature. When logging-in to Sametime, Brill’s location is displayed in his profile information, informing colleagues, for example, that he won’t be available for a meeting in Chicago because he is in New Zealand. The buddy-list user interface also displays location specific services, such as available printers and meeting rooms, and what is on the menu in the staff canteen — if there is one, he says.

The new version also displays more information about the person you are talking to. For example full name, title and a picture from the corporate directory, which could come in handy in big corporations, he says.

Other new features include single-click buttons, for actions such as adding to the contact list; adding someone to a chat; calling via VoIP or capturing images, for example a diagram, and sending it in the chat, says Brill.

Brill talks about some of the plug-ins he finds very useful. For example Thinkbox, which will show the last five emails you have received from a person when that person sends an IM to you.

“It can be emails as well as documents that [that person] has created, which is probably what [he or she] wants to talk to you about,” he says.

Another plug-in that “IBMers” use internally is Skill Tap, which tries to find out who can best answer a question, says Brill. A user can send off a question that will go back to the server, where the application tries to find an expert who can answer the question by using information in the corporate directory. When it makes a match it will check if that person is online, and then notify the person who asked the question.

The plug-ins add new collaboration capabilities to Sametime, thus enabling users to collaborate more smartly and increase productivity, says Brill. That is what differentiates Sametime from other IM networks, he says.

“There is a huge difference between [using IM for] just chat or for business efficiency,” he says.

In the US, IBM employees now conduct all internal meetings on Sametime, says Brill.

“It really cuts down phone and travel budgets.”

Sametime 7.5 integrates with public IM networks AOL, Yahoo and Google, but not MSN. When asked if he thinks support for MSN is likely to come about, Brill has no comment. However, next year, Sametime 7.5 will support integration with Microsoft Outlook, Office and SharePoint, he says.

It also supports Mac OS X 10.4 and Linux.

Sametime 7.5 is available now in New Zealand and costs $94.60 per user.

IBM has 1,600 Lotus software accounts in Australia and New Zealand

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