IBM/Lotus to put social networking tools, sharing software in spotlight

IBM/Lotus next week plans to move its work from the lab to the limelight of Lotusphere, where it will introduce a bundle of social networking tools designed to revolutionize the way companies collaborate internally and with partners.

IBM/Lotus next week plans to move its work from the lab to the limelight of Lotusphere, where it will introduce a bundle of social networking tools designed to revolutionize the way companies collaborate internally and with partners.

With the bundle, code-named Ventura, users will be able to share popular browser bookmarks to find relevant data more quickly, share workflow-supported lists of current activities, work in well-defined online communities and create a hyperlinked blogging environment.

Ventura could change the way organizations communicate, share the data they generate and collect, as well as analyze information and work patterns to help refine and improve collaboration.

IBM also plans to highlight its Geneva project at Lotusphere, which begins its five-day run Jan. 21 in Orlando, Fla.

Geneva is an integration of QuickPlace and Domino Document Manager that will provide team workspaces and document storage where users can not only work with other users but collectively share documents and resources that today are often distributed via e-mail.

In the worksIBM has projects in the works to bring social networking tools to its collaboration platform and to marry its document management and team work-space technology.
VenturaCollection of social networking tools including a user directory, shared bookmarks, activity planner and blogging software.Microsoft is developing social networking tools via its Live services; also Google, Yahoo and a host of start-ups.
GenevaCombination of QuickPlace and Domino Document Manager with workflow and support for multiple repositories and clients.Depending on how it develops, could line up against Microsoft SharePoint or other content management systems.

“Geneva is these two tools combined and done right,” says one partner with knowledge of the project who asked not to be identified. “It takes the best of both and adds some other good stuff in.”

But Lotusphere won’t only be about ushering in new tools, it will also be about clearing up lingering confusion over the company’s long-term plans for Notes/Domino, WebSphere and its struggling service-oriented-architecture-based Workplace platform.

At Lotusphere, IBM will reveal what Lotus General Manager Mike Rhodin has been telling partners and customers for months, which is that going forward Workplace won’t be a stand-alone platform but a branding label for a set of technologies and standards that will be used across IBM’s product portfolio.

A prime example is Lotus Expeditor, formerly called the Workplace Managed Client, which works with both Notes and WebSphere to extend composite applications to laptops, desktops, kiosks and mobile devices.

Also at the conference, Lotus plans to demo the forthcoming Notes/Domino 8, which has yet to reach public beta but is slated to ship in mid-2007. The company also plans to show designs for future Notes/Domino versions, including improvements in contacts and calendaring features.

But the limelight will be reserved for Ventura and Geneva, which are both in the early stages of development.

Ventura is a collection of social networking tools IBM has been using internally, developing in its labs and building on within open source projects.

It is planned as a suite under IBM’s somewhat vague activity-centric computing model. Ventura pulls together IBM’s BluePages, a user directory for profiles; Dogear, a bookmark-sharing application, Activities, a sophisticated to-do list; Communities, for pulling together groups of users; and Roller, a blog server developed within the Apache Software Foundation.

BluePages has been used inside IBM for years. Dogear has also turned up recently inside IBM and was featured last year in the IBM Innovation Lab at Lotusphere.

Major vendors, such as IBM, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, are now trying to refine consumer-based social networking tools that are popular online, such as blogs, wikis and syndication feeds into corporate collaboration software. The effort is much like instant messaging was cultivated over the years from teen-cult status into a corporate tool for real-time voice and video.

Ventura will not only feature search and syndication tools, such as RSS and Atom, but integration with directory and security technology on the Notes/Domino and WebSphere platforms.

Geneva, which until recently was code-named Shanghi, combines team work spaces with document management. In its initial development, it will support Lotus NSF and Java Content Repositories, and incorporate IBM workflow technology. In the future, IBM/Lotus plans to add support for IBM repositories such as DB2 and non-IBM platforms, such as Microsoft’s SharePoint Server.

In addition, users will be able to access Geneva from a number of interfaces, including Notes, Sametime, portals, Microsoft’s Windows and Office, and other stand-alone clients.

“Lotus is finally going to craft multiple complementary messages for different audiences — Notes/Domino users and WebSphere users,” says one Notes expert who asked not to be quoted. “They are not going to have the same kind of disaster they have had with Workplace over the past years.”

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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