IBM is developing tools to cater for the emerging ways of working and sharing information evidenced by the popularity of internet-based applications such as Skype, instant messaging and online portals.
IBM has a long-term strategy to build collaborative technologies into desktop computing to meet these trends, through the evolution of its Lotus Notes client.
The first fruits of this endeavour will be introduced in Lotus Notes version 7, due this summer.
The collaboration functionality introduced in Notes version 7 will then be extended with the next major release, code-named Hannover, in the first half of 2007.
Hannover will include all the capabilities of Notes version 7, plus those of Workplace Managed Client, such as Openoffice productivity tools and Java-based Workplace Collaboration Services. It will offer team rooms, discussion threads, instant messaging and Activity Explorer, which provides a way to search all the information in a user's e-mail, documents, instant messaging feeds and other activities.
Clive Longbottom, head of research at analyst firm Quocirca, welcomed the strategy. "Change is never easy, but today's collaborative arenas make sense for users and companies, and should be embraced as rapidly as they can."
However, he predicted that few new users would adopt Notes/ Domino because of the application development that is involved. "This will mainly appeal to existing users, who will already have the requisite skills and capabilities to move forwards."
Some Lotus users remain to be convinced by the new features. Jim Moffat, founding member of Lotus user group Collaboration, said, "Most of us communicate in a number of anarchic ways and Activity Explorer looks a little structured for my taste. Task management is a good example of something that looks good in theory and is very useful within project management, but in everyday work ends up becoming too structured and draconian.
"When you want to find an answer, do you turn to an expert system, a knowledge management system, Activity Explorer or do you ask an expert? Most of us would ask an expert."
Collaboration in Lotus Notes
In Lotus Notes version 6.5, IBM integrated Sametime presence awareness and instant messaging into the e-mail inbox, enabling users to view the location of colleagues.
In Lotus Notes 7, Sametime presence will be extended throughout the calendar and contacts. Lotus Notes Hannover, due to be released in 2007, will bring presence, instant messaging and other collaborative technologies into e-mail, click to call, calendar, activities and RSS feeds.
In a report on Hannover, Erica Rugullies, principal analyst at Forrester Research, said, "Users will be able to access collaborative services in various ways: for example, via a live user name in a document, or when a user highlights an e-mail message about a specific customer contract and sees relevant changes in the contacts, recent meetings, and activities sections on the screen."