IBM upgrades Sametime client to work with Microsoft software

IBM/Lotus on Monday unveiled client upgrades to its real-time communications and collaboration platform that tie into Microsoft software and third-party mobile devices.

The company said that with Sametime 7.5 users will be able to launch real-time communication sessions from within Microsoft Office, Microsoft SharePoint, and Microsoft's Outlook e-mail client. The company also announced support for RIM, Nokia and Windows Mobile devices.

The client improvements are slated to ship later this year and early in 2007.

IBM’s announcement comes the same day rival Microsoft is holding a daylong conference in San Francisco to lay out the roadmap for its Unified Communications strategy.

“Companies are starting to get the concept of contextual collaboration,” says David Marshak, senior product manager for IBM/Lotus. “The buddy list is certainly one place to collaborate, along with e-mail, the Web site, the portal. But now users can go into documents and see if authors are online or if the people listed in a spreadsheet are online. You can start chatting, use voice over IP or anything you can do through Sametime.”

From Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint, Sametime users can send an instant message, initiate a VoIP call, share an application or launch a Web conference. From within Outlook, Microsoft’s e-mail client, users can see who is online, schedule a Web conference from their calendars and access all of Sametime’s capabilities, including Web conferencing.

IBM is using Microsoft’s Smart Tags technology to integration with the Office applications.

IBM announced in January it would make client-side improvements in mid-2006, but experts say improvements also are needed on the server side, where IBM has focused on scalability and reliability. IBM/Lotus plans to release the Real-Time Collaboration Gateway later this year to foster IM integration with AOL, Yahoo and Google.

The gateway will translate Sametime’s native Virtual Places (VP) protocol to the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE). The gateway also will support translation to the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP), which is the protocol used by Jabber and Google Talk.

IBM also said Sametime 7.5 would be built on the Eclipse framework so developers would have an open programming model for developing real-time communications applications.

“Getting a client foundation for real-time applications is interesting from an innovation point of view,” says Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group. “But that does not solve the other problem on the back end. There is still backend work to do, and that won’t happen for another release.”

IBM is also introducing a plug-in architecture built on Eclipse, so any plug-ins that are developed for the Sametime client also would run on the forthcoming Notes Hannover client and the just-released Workplace Managed Client 2.6.

In January, IBM said the new plug-in capability would let developers add social networking tools to Sametime, extend features such as looking up free/busy times on calendars, adding location-awareness features, the ability to find printers on a network, new click-to-call features that integrate the client with a PBX, or embedding soft-phone capabilities into the client.

IBM/Lotus has licensed a codec from Global IP Sound to support the VoIP features, including multi-caller sessions. The codec is the same one used by Skype and lets up to five users connect at one time to the same call.

Partners also will be able to develop plug-ins that extend the capabilities of the Sametime client.

In addition, IBM/Lotus is adding audio/visual integration with products from Avaya, Polycom, Nortel, Siemens, Tandberg.

The IBM/Lotus Sametime 7.5 client runs on Windows, Mac, Linux and on Windows, AIX, System i servers.

Sametime 7.5 is expected to ship before the end of September. Mobile support for Sametime is expected before the end of 2006, and integration with SharePoint, Outlook 2000 and above and Office XP and above is expected at the beginning of 2007.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

The 10 most powerful companies in enterprise networking 2022