Services & Software

Lotus to expand collaboration tools

IBM's software division is set to reveal a new set of applications and services as part of its "Workplace" collaboration strategy.

IBM's Lotus software division is set to reveal additions to its Workplace family of collaboration tools on Wednesday.

Lotus rolled out the Workplace brand earlier this year to unify a collection of products and services designed to help people work together more effectively.

The foundation of Workplace is an instant messaging service based on Sun Microsystems' Java 2 Enterprise Edition. J2EE allowed Lotus to create a compact messaging framework that can be built into any environment where people can benefit from real-time communication, said Ken Bisconti, a vice president in IBM's Lotus division.

"We made instant messaging a very integral component of Workplace," Bisconti said. "What you'll see going forward in Workplace is even more aggressive use of this as a flexible, lightweight component."

The new additions to Workplace will include Web conferencing functions based on Lotus' Sametime conferencing software but with simpler tools for setting up the most common types of online meetings.

"What we find with a lot of customers is they need a really clean, streamlined experience," said Mike Loria, director of advanced collaboration products for Lotus. "One of the most common types of meetings is someone presenting slides and talking. I think we've really nailed that far as creating an easy and crystal-clear environment for that to happen."

IBM will also add document management functions to Workplace, the beginning of blending content management with document sharing functions, Bisconti said. IBM is a major player in the growing market for content management software, applications used to catalog and manage access to corporate data.

"We're seeing the boundaries between collaboration and content management starting to blur," Bisconti said. "We have a bigger agenda around content services in Workplace."

IBM is in the midst of a far-reaching effort to transform Lotus from a seller of individual applications to a provider of a broad set of products and services focused on corporate portals and collaboration.

The approach puts the IBM division in increasing conflict with Microsoft, which has folded collaboration services into the new family of products built around its widespread Office productivity package.