IBM/Lotus later this month will ship Notes/Domino 6.5 and begin to show corporate users how to extend the reach of its collaboration software by embedding it in everyday client software.
With embedded components users can stay within their familiar software and still have access to collaboration features such as instant messaging. The benefit for IT is less end-user training, less client software to maintain and better ROI in collaborative software.
The 6.5 release is focused on the Notes client and highlights how it is integrated with instant messaging and presence information supported by the Lotus Instant Messaging and Web Conferencing Server. Instant-messaging capabilities can be integrated into the Notes in-box, forms, applications and databases without the need for a separate client. Later this year, IBM/Lotus plans to add web conferencing and team workplace integration.
What Lotus is missing, however, is web services-based integration with applications from other vendors. The instant messaging integration with Notes/Domino 6.5 doesn't go beyond Notes/Domino applications and IBM's WebSphere Portal Server.
Lotus and Microsoft have been promising for more than two years to deliver a set of components from their respective collaboration suites that can be used to add features to other applications.
The concept is known as contextual collaboration, which would let collaborative features be added to any application. For example, an instant-messaging component could be used in a CRM application to provide an indicator that a support person is online and foster a real-time chat session, all within the CRM interface.
"IBM/Lotus has institutionalised the component concept better than any other vendor," says Matt Cain, an analyst with Meta Group. "But the focus has been on (IBM/Lotus) product-level integration and you don't see a deeper integration, with other software based on web services interfaces."
Without web services interfaces, users will be hard pressed to easily integrate components across various vendors' products.
Cain says the focus on instant messaging in Notes/Domino 6.5 is a move to increase momentum behind Lotus' five-year-old instant-messaging technology before Microsoft's scheduled release on October 21 of Office Live Communications Server for IM, Outlook 2003 client and Office 2003 application suite.
Corporate usage of instant messaging is expected to increase from 60 million users today to 349 million in the next five years, according to a survey in June by research firm The Radicati Group.
The Notes 6.5 client is highlighted by the fact that a separate instant-messaging client is no longer needed as was the case in Notes 6.0.
The interface has four new icons that allow chat sessions, instant meetings and the ability to add users to a buddy list and hide/show that list within the client.
The instant-messaging integration also incorporates presence information into the Domino directory or any Lightweight Directory Access Protocol-compliant directory that lets users see who in the company is online, not just those on their buddy lists.
The instant-messaging integration is built using Domino Designer, which lets developers add presence capabilities to any application that can be accessed by the Notes client.
Notes/Domino 6.5 will ship at the end of the month. Pricing is the same as the 6.0 client, which starts at $US90 per user and the 6.0 server, which starts at $US2964.