Lotus Gets Social

How do we connect the dots?

The talking points at this year’s Lotusphere were all about people, people, and people.  The official tagline of “Get Social. Do Business” was tempered with an emphasis on remembering that the point of social activity is not just sharing and moving documents around, but allowing individuals to communicate more effectively with one another.

The buzz word for the new generation of Lotus products is “Next.”  The gist of Next is that IBM is taking a set of social features developed in Project Vulcan (the company’s collaboration, business analytics, and aggregation user experience initiative) and applying them to the core products, namely Notes and Domino, Sametime, Connections, and LotusLive.  The underlying idea is to build a platform that incorporates various social features such as activity streams, content sharing, and automated suggestions of relevant content, people, and groups or communities.

Additionally, the new features and interfaces will be standardized across the offerings, to create more symmetry between the Notes desktop and browser-based tools such as LotusLive.  They will also include new calendaring features such as the ability for non-chairs to edit calendar entries.  The Next group of offerings will move into beta later this year.

Here is a quick look at the major collaboration and knowledge sharing announcements coming out of Lotusphere:

Activity Stream Clients for Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, and Nokia
This set of clients will bring the new and refined activity stream functionality to mobile devices, and allow users to take action on items without leaving the mobile environment, a concept that extends to the other announcements, and is referred to by IBM as “embedded experience.”

LotusLive Symphony
This cloud-based release of the company’s office productivity suite will feature real-time co-authoring, in-line commenting, presence integration, the ability to assign sections to specific authors, notifications of edits, versioning, and auto save.  It will be available as a technical preview next week, and is expected to be released in full in the second half of 2011.

LotusLive Next
LotusLive Next will benefit from the new activity stream, which looks quite powerful and uses complex algorithms to filter and surface relevant content, people, and groups for the individual user.  The stream presents relevant applications, content, people, activities, mail, and even voicemail.  A useful feature is the ability to hover over suggested content to see why it was suggested, such as mutual interests or past projects.  As in the mobile activity stream clients, users can view and take action on items in the stream.

Connections Next
New features will include a new media gallery for video and photo sharing, ideation, enhanced community moderation capabilities, a Microsoft Outlook social connector, ECM library integration via widgets, and plug-in connectors for Notes files.  Another new feature is a share box, which allows quick and painless sharing of content without having to leave the environment.

Sametime Next
Sametime will be seeing advancements in the mobile realm, with an upcoming (second half of 2011) native Android client that provides the full functionality of the current Nokia, RIM, and browser-based iPhone applications.  Additions include support for location information and voice-to-text and text-to-voice capabilities.  Further down the road, IBM expects to release native iPhone and Symbian3 applications and increase its focus on audio and video functionality.

For the desktop client, Sametime Next will feature video conferencing, browser-based online meetings, and audio and video functionality via browser plug-ins.

Notes and Domino Next
The big news around Notes and Domino Next is, of course, the social aspects that the features and interfaces that have emerged out of Project Vulcan, such as the activity stream and share box.  Domino will also be moving towards cloud deployment, and users of LotusLive will be able to run Domino applications via the cloud.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

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