» Archive for the 'Social Software' Category

In the briefing room: Bluenog ICE

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Ten years ago, Basex laid the groundwork for the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a conceptual framework for a workspace for the knowledge worker that is now starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.  A properly designed CBE facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration and, especially in today’s economic environment, managers are looking to technology to give their organizations a competitive advantage.

Bluenog, an enterprise software company, this week released Bluenog ICE 4.5 (ICE stands for integrated collaborative environment), the latest version of the company’s enterprise software suite.  Bluenog integrates multiple open source software projects to form the basis of its platform.  The company, through its professional services division, will further integrate ICE into an organization’s existing systems.

Bluenog ICE originally included content management, portal, and business intelligence functionality.  ICE CMS is a content management system built on Apache Cocoon, Apache Lucene, OS Workflow, TinyMCE, and HippoCMS open source projects.  ICE Portal is a portal solution that leverages Apache Portals, Apache Jetspeed-2, Apache Wicket, Adobe Flex, and Spring Source.  ICE BI provides business intelligence and reporting and is based on Eclipse BIRT and Apache Jackrabbit.

These core components have all received enhancements for the new release.  The HTML editor in ICE CMS has been replaced by the TinyMCE HTML editor and ICE BI has improved report viewing and search integration.  Also new for this release is ICE Central, a simplified central management console for all ICE components, and a propagation tool to move content, portal artifacts and configurations across environments.

These improvements are all worthy of note but what may really help organizations realize significant enterprise productivity and efficiency gains is that Bluenog added significant collaborative technology to ICE, namely ICE Wiki and ICE Calendar.  The wiki component is based on the JSPWiki, Apache Jackrabbit, Apache Lucene, and Apache FileUpload open source projects.  The wiki is accessed through an ICE portlet and features rich HTML editing page level permissions, version control, reporting on page and link usage through ICE BI, the ability to manage attachments, support for wiki markup language, and support for multiple wikis running on a single server.

Wikis are an increasingly popular tool for content management within organizations of all sizes and ICE Wiki allows non-technical knowledge workers to create, edit, and maintain content using a fairly easy-to-understand interface.

ICE Calendar is a group calendaring application based on the open source Bedework project.  Just as in ICE Wiki, the calendar is available as an ICE portlet, and enables publishing of events, workflowing of events for approval, and importing and exporting events to other iCalendar-based calendars.

Bluenog ICE falls into the category of commercial open source software.  It’s built using open source projects but sold as a commercial package.  Virtually unknown several years ago, commercial open source is becoming a popular alternative for organizations of all sizes that want the openness of open source but don’t necessarily have the skills to do the heavy lifting to deploy and integrate multiple open source projects.

We’ll be taking a look at the changes that are taking place in the content management space, including where commercial open source fits in, in a report slated for next month.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

What is Twitter?

Thursday, June 4th, 2009 by Seth Shapiro

Twitter is the mutt of all that is social. A cross between an instant messenger, e-mail client, and a social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter is a fast paced environment. On Twitter, users post 140 character updates (called “tweets”) quickly and (sometimes) persistently to their Twitter page for others to view and comment on. Users can become followers of other Twitter contributors; followers are sent tweets whenever their “tweeter” (someone who uses Twitter) updates his or her page.

Similar to other social networking sites, membership is free and the service relies solely on its users to create content and refer friends. There are myriad uses for the service and the information generated by users.  Twitter may be used by a small group of friends to keep each other updated of their physical location or be useful in a college setting to find someone else looking for a lunch date. The availability of multiple ways to update Twitter increases its accuracy.  Users can broadcast tweets from the Twitter Web site, text message from any SMS capable cell phone, or through outside applications such as DSTwitter (which allows updates from the Nintendo DS gaming console).

Twitter has proven itself effective in fields its creator Jack Dorsey never envisioned. Taking on social networking giants such as Facebook, Twitter offers something Facebook cannot: a fast paced environment where information can be shared almost instantly.  Facebook has, however, attempted to mimic Twitter with its recent redesign that has placed more emphasis on a user’s activity stream.  Using Twitter, people have reported that they are able to ask for information, ranging from a restaurant recommendation to a cure for the hiccups, and get responses immediately. Those with many followers could draw attention to a new hip gadget or poll users on their ideas of a new business proposal (with limited information of course).  Additional business uses include running searches through the tweets that are being broadcast to track conversations, gather information about products and identify trends.

The membership in Twitter may number as many as five million (it does not disclose such figures). If a company could convert a small percentage, say 4% into followers, it would have the ability to communicate with 20,000 people through tweets. Twitter makes it very easy for a company to have a dialog with its customers and business partners.

Twitter may have originally been designed to update friends and family on one’s whereabouts (founder Jack Dorsey first called the system “Status”); however, with the extended availability to tweet and to be delivered daily updates of those you follow, Twitter has become much more. It is a pool of information that anyone with a computer, mobile phone, or even a Nintendo DS has access too. Friends may use it to meet for lunch, singles may use it to find others, and businesses may use it as a means to contact those they have not yet touched.

Till my next “tweet.”

Seth Shapiro is an analyst at Basex.  This is his first Analyst Opinion.

In the briefing room: NewsGator Social Sites

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Cody Burke

With hundreds of millions of regular users, social software has become a part of many knowledge workers’ daily lives – outside of the enterprise.  But the value of such tools doesn’t necessarily end at the firewall.

One vendor recognizing the potential in this space is NewsGator, a company that, in the past, has been synonymous with RSS tools.  NewsGator supports collaboration and social networking in the enterprise through its Social Sites offering, currently in version 2.7.

Social Sites is a social computing layer that is added on to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 deployments.  It brings social features such as Ajax-based profiles, activity feeds, community creation, and idea generation functionality to SharePoint.  Social Sites enables the users to build both internal and external communities, increases use of internal portals, and uses social networking to enhance communications within an enterprise.  All of this takes place through SharePoint, which exports data natively in RSS, making it easy for NewsGator to hook on to.

At login, Social Sites provides a personalized start page that collects information based on a variety of factors, including one’s colleagues (the Social Sites version of Facebook friends), groups and communities the user is a member of, content preferences , and projects.  The profile is customizable and during set up the system will recommend colleagues, groups, and communities based on common tags and interests.  From profiles, a user’s details, contact information, ideas that have been generated, votes for ideas, tag cloud, and content subscriptions are visible.  An activity feed appears on a user’s profile, similar to Facebook’s activity stream, which features relevant notifications, such as bookmarking by colleagues, events, community and group activity, document creation and editing, and content from outside Social Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  This feed can be sent out as an e-mail digest, in full or in a custom version around topics or certain kinds of activity.

Social Sites can create a social network graph linking an individual with colleagues based on common interests and activities such as tagging.  A mini profile of each individual is one click away but it isn’t possible to pivot from one person’s network to another’s at this time.  NewsGator says this may be included in a future release.

Communities can be created easily and quickly around projects, interests, and idea generation.  The idea generation and innovation aspect of Social Sites is a good addition to the social functions; it allows brainstorming to be conducted relativity seamlessly, without having to utilize a separate system or tool.

A key area featured in Social Sites is the idea of surfacing connections between knowledge workers who do not know each other, and may be working on similar projects unbeknownst to one another.  If Joe in Los Angeles is working on a presentation and posts something to that effect on his blog, and Frank in Munich is working on the same type of project and has added a wiki page on it, the system will make that connection and recommend they become colleagues in the system.

Social Sites is not intended to replace direct communication tools such as e-mail and instant messaging; rather, it serves as shared knowledge repository, be it through exposing users to content that may be relevant to them or functioning as a virtual brainstorming session.  It does, however, allow companies to add valuable social networking tools onto their SharePoint deployments without the risks that the use of public social networking tools entails.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Oracle Beehive

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

We recently had our first look at the new version of Beehive, Oracle’s collaboration solution and replacement for the Oracle Collaboration Suite.  Beehive is available both as an on-demand application or on-premises deployment and it goes up against two heavyweights. One is IBM, which created the groupware market with Lotus Notes and also offers Lotus Connections, Quickr and Domino (the Notes server). The other is Microsoft, which offers customers Exchange and SharePoint.

The effort behind Beehive is in part the handiwork of newly-arrived chief beekeeper and senior vice president of collaboration, David Gilmour, formerly CEO of Tacit Software, a provider of collaborative tools that Oracle acquired last year.

Beehive looks to have the makings of a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a workspace designed for the knowledge worker that incorporates all tools and resources in one overarching environment, which is starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.

Beehive 1.5 adds Web-based team work spaces along with wikis, team calendaring, RSS support, contextual search, and advanced file sharing.  Other changes in Beehive 1.5 include enhanced Web and voice conferencing including on-demand recording and retrieval and the ability for a presenter to see the delay between the screen they are sharing and what the audience is seeing.  Also included is integration with standard desktop tools that allows users to stay with e-mail clients that they already use, such as Microsoft Outlook, AppleMail, and Thunderbird (but not Lotus Notes) and instant messaging clients that adhere to open standards.

For tighter integration, Beehive has an Outlook extension that mimics the familiar interface of Outlook with Exchange when connecting Outlook to  Beehive.  It also has an extension for Windows Explorer that provides a folder level view as well as the option of using the included Zimbra open source e-mail software.  Behind the scenes, all data is stored in an Oracle database.

Right now, we’re only scratching the surface.  We will be looking at Beehive in greater depth in an upcoming report.

Jonathan B. Spira is the chief analyst at Basex. Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Enterprise Social Networking: Some thoughts from the Online Community Unconference 2009

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Last week I moderated the Social Networking in the Enterprise session at the Online Community Unconference East 2009 in New York.

The theme for the session was Social Networking in the Enterprise.  We discussed trends in social networking that are both internal and external to the enterprise.  In attendance were over 15 knowledge workers from a variety of organizations including Crowd Fusion, IBM, Leader Networks, Leverage Software, McKinsey, MediaVision, Ramius, SAP, Social Intent, Symphonic Consulting, and Time among others.

Here is what we discussed.

Despite the proliferation of social networking, many organizations remain clueless in this area.  Ultimately most companies want to use social networking to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing but they are not sure as to how to proceed.  In addition, many organizations feel pressured to use public social networks for marketing purposes, but they typically do not have a clearly defined set of goals in mind.

It is also important to recognize that building a social networking presence requires a lot of work behind the scenes.  Just because everyone else has a corporate Facebook page does not mean that it is right for your company.  Clearly, more thought needs to go into the benefits of developing a social networking presence in the context of an organizations identity and its own requirements.

One thing was clear (at least to me), companies that develop social networking tools for the enterprise will need to educate decision makers about the benefits of social networking tools in order to gain traction in the marketplace.

Another interesting topic was that of expertise location, something Basex has reported on extensively.  Many knowledge workers experience difficultly in finding subject matter experts, i.e. a Russian speaker or someone who understands how to deploy a specific software solution, and view social networking tools as a possible solution.  Another interesting trend is that some companies are considering deploying fairly sophisticated social networking tools although they have not yet deployed fairly basic community and collaboration tools (such as instant messaging).  That type of leap may not work very well for their knowledge workers.  Social networking tools add an additional level of complexity that some may not be quite ready for.

In terms of knowledge sharing, we heard that many knowledge workers are still information hoarders and have not learnt that there is tremendous value in sharing information with colleagues.  If an organization can’t get past this obstacle, it will not be able to compete successfully in the knowledge economy, where knowledge sharing is, of course, de rigeur.

The foregoing was just a brief overview.  As with most good discussions, more questions were raised than there was time to answer them, but the quality of both people and ideas that were present was refreshing, and we at Basex look forward to continuing this conversation.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Lotusphere: Blue is the New Yellow

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 16th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 16th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Berlin.

As has been the custom all these years, IBM once again unleashed a flood of information, both in the general session and throughout the event.  For those allergic to information overload, Orlando was a dangerous place.

The news, from a somewhat modder, hipper, Lotus, which trotted out the Blue Man Group (one had to wonder why it took Big Blue over a decade to book them) and Dan Aykroyd to further underscore the message of collaboration and this year’s theme of resonance.  Last year, incidentally, we said that “yellow is the new black.”   Regardless of color, the tools coming from Lotus allowing knowledge workers to share knowledge and collaborate are stronger and more powerful than ever.

Indeed, resonance can be “very very powerful,” Lotus GM Bob Picciano (attending his first Lotusphere following his appointment to the top position eight months ago) pointed it out in the opening session.  When it’s working at its full potential, he added, it will “absolutely shatter windows.”

With Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie present, IBM celebrated the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry mobile device by unveiling a new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform, that supports Web conferencing, file transfer, public groups, and enhanced presence.  BlackBerry addicts, excuse me, users, can also open Lotus Symphony word processing documents attached to e-mail or Sametime, with eventual access to presentations and spreadsheets.   They can also download, edit, and post to Lotus Quickr team software.

The new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Connections social software platform integrates with e-mail, camera, media player, and the browser, and supports blogs, activities, and communities.  It also supports enhanced profile information including name pronunciations and pictures.  Previously, users on BlackBerry devices could only access Connections’ profiles and tag tools.

But there was more, lots more.

Lotus Sametime
IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 8.5.  Not surprisingly, the new version sports a brand new user interface.  It also includes a tool kit that allows customers to use Sametime to add collaborative capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and click-to-call, to their business processes.  Sametime features enhanced meeting support, including an Ajax-based zero-download Web client and the ability to add participants by dragging and dropping names.  Other enhancements include improved audio and video, persistent meeting rooms, better support for the Mac and Linux platforms, and the ability to record meetings in industry standard formats.  The Sametime Connect client includes connectivity to profiles within Lotus Connections and pictures from contacts in Lotus Notes.  Sametime Unified Telephony ties Sametime to corporate telephone systems and allows knowledge workers to give out one phone number and set up rules that allow them to be reached based on various conditions (if one is in a meeting, the call could go directly to voicemail unless it’s one’s manager, in which case it would ring on the mobile).

LotusLive
After a year of public beta using the code-name “Project Bluehouse,” IBM announced LotusLive.  The new cloud-based portfolio of collaboration tools and social software supports e-mail, collaboration, and Web conferencing. LotusLive is built using open Web-based standards and an open business model allowing companies to easily integrate third party applications into their environment.  Two LotusLive services are available from the site, Meetings and Events.  Meetings integrate audio and video conferencing; events supports online conferences including registration.

The IBM Web site also lists LotusLive Notes, or IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging in more formal IBM parlance, but unlike Events and Meetings, you can’t sign up and start the service online.  The only button to click is the one that says “Contact Sales.”

Partners for LotusLive: Skype, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com
IBM also announced that LotusLive will support Skype, LinkedIn, and salesforce.com.  LinkedIn members will be able to search LinkedIn’s public professional network from within LotusLive and then collaborate with them using LotusLive services.  Salesforce users will be able to use LotusLive’s collaborative tools in conjunction with the customer and opportunity management tools available in the Salesforce CRM application.  LotusLive users will also be able to call Skype contacts from within LotusLive

LotusLive Engage
IBM also announced the beta of LotusLive Engage, a “smarter” meeting service according to IBM.  Engage is a suite of tools that conflates Web conferencing and collaboration with file storage and sharing, instant messaging, and chart creation.  It allows knowledge workers to continuously engage – not just for one meeting – in a community-like environment.

IBM and SAP present Alloy
IBM and SAP announced their first joint product, Alloy.  Previewed at last year’s Lotusphere under the code name “Atlantic,” Alloy presents information and data from SAP applications within the Lotus Notes client and Lotus Notes applications.

If you want to look back at news from past Lotuspheres, feel free to click back to 2008, 20072006, 2005, or 2004.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Open Text Wants Social Tools To Bloom

Friday, November 28th, 2008 by Cody Burke

Last week at Open Text Content World in Orlando, I had the chance to hear about some new products and strategies.  Here are some highlights.

Overall, the main take away from Content World is that Open Text is encouraging customers to embrace social tools, and wants to show customers that they can use these tools effectively and in a safe enterprise-friendly environment.

The strategy that Open Text presented is called Bloom.  Bloom is not a product or product family, but a means for bringing social software tools into the enterprise in a safe and auditable manner.  Bloom is intended to enable Enterprise 2.0, which is a blanket term that refers to tacking social and collaboration tools onto enterprise applications and environments.  The message at the event was simple: social tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, micro-blogging of status updates, social bookmarking, and presence awareness are here to stay, and by bringing them into the enterprise, an organization can improve collaboration, speed up development cycles, and increase knowledge sharing.

Although many of the capabilities that Bloom emphasizes already exist in Open Text products, looking forward the Bloom strategy focuses on the following key areas: Web 2.0 tools, social networking, social analytics, and social compliance.  The foundation for Bloom is the Open Text ECM Suite, which includes integrated tools for document management, digital asset management, Web content management, collaboration, e-mail, and archiving.  All the functionality of the tools is intended to be tied together on a macro level by social software features.

The Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 strategy aims to address the following points: experience and workgroup optimization, content management with 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, communities, and forums, enterprise-level safety of those same tools, and improving search with “find before search,” Open Text’s ideal search situation where relevant content is presented to the user without them having to search for it.  This is in theory accomplished by information being found and delivered preemptively based on the users’ context and role.

Social tools that support Bloom and Enterprise 2.0 are already available in Livelink through Communities of Practice, but the new push includes extending the functionality of social tools beyond the desktop and laptop computers to the mobile device.  To this end, Open Text has developed a project codenamed “Bluefield,” which is a browser-based enterprise-ready workspace and social community builder that consists of profiles with standard contact info and personal blogs, communities that can be formed around projects or teams and feed updates of colleagues and changes that are made to documents or projects.  For iPhone and BlackBerry users, the experience is identical on the mobile device to what one would experience on a laptop or desktop.  Bluefield includes the ability to edit Word or Excel documents through a browser, with changes reflected live on the server.  This eliminates the need to download the document to the device, keeping the experience extremely lightweight.

A weak point for Bluefield (and all browser-based tools) is the lack of offline access.  The ability to access documents and work offline is still important despite proclamations from Open Text that Net access is ubiquitous.  For instance, if I were using Bluefield through a browser on my laptop to edit a Word document, then I would have to remember to save a copy to my hard drive before getting on the plane so I could work on it while aloft and offline.  I would then have to replace the document into Bluefield when back online.

Also shown at Content World was a social analytics tool and search technology that is currently referred to as the “Relationship Engine”, although the name and future product form are still in flux.  What is intriguing is the ability to enter a set of data and create visualizations that show the relationship between nodes, and to switch the point of view to drill down into the visualization.  In the demonstration presented, data from the event was used to create visual maps of the connections among attendees, breakout sessions, conference tracks, and presenters.  The premise is simple, yet fitting; everything is an object, be it a person, document, seminar, or project, and the relationships between those objects can tell us much about how information flows and how best to route it.

Although still in development, the potential to apply the technology to search and social analytics is exciting.  This kind of technology is hopefully the future of search, which is currently a fundamentally flawed tool.  The ability to search for content and see who is connected to that content right from the results page could be a large step in improving the essential but somewhat ham-handed tools we all use everyday to find information.

Although social software functionality and search are clearly not new areas for Open Text products, what came across at Content World was a refocusing on communicating the safety and enterprise capabilities of social tools.  This mirrors what we are seeing across the market, an increased interest in pulling these tools into the enterprise and taming them without losing what drives their value – the ability to facilitate communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Social Networking Tools Try To Grow Up

Friday, August 29th, 2008 by Cody Burke

Social software?  That’s where you meet your friends, post pictures of your trip, maybe even play a game of Scrabble (the fully legal Hasbro version of course).  It isn’t, necessarily, something that you would expect to find in an enterprise setting.

To be fully embraced by the enterprise, social software has to do more than simply provide a space for a profile and grow and interact with a contact list.  Recent newcomers to the social networking scene have struggled to gain ground.  Micro blogging tools such as Twitter, which allow for short messages to be broadcast to “followers” in a user’s network, are still in their infancy in terms of potential uses for the enterprise.  The majority of the use is in the consumer market, letting your network of friends know that you are walking your dog or that you just read a good article.

Mining the consumer market for tools that will be successful in the enterprise is hardly a new idea.  Instant messaging, once purely a consumer pursuit, is now indispensable in many organizations, and tools such as wikis and blogs are increasingly finding a home in corporations.  Outside the enterprise, business-focused social networks (LinkedIn and Xing come to mind) cater to knowledge workers looking to interact with one another.

Social software in the enterprise perhaps became legitimized when Lotus Software introduced Lotus Connections in 2007.  Lotus Connections is a business-focused social software package that brings social tools from the consumer market into the enterprise.  Connections incorporates tools for the creation of personal profiles that aid in expert location, the establishment of new contacts across an organization, and maintaining important relationships regardless of physical proximity.

Today we see several social networking products from the consumer side that are making the shift into the enterprise.  An interesting example of this kind of crossover is Socialcast.  Socialcast began in 2005 as a white label social networking software company, developing custom private social networks for the entertainment industry, places for fans to interact with each other, centered on a music artist or movie.  Recently, Socialcast remade itself as into a provider of enterprise-level social software, applying the lessons learnt in the consumer entertainment industry to a business setting.

Socialcast is a social network dropped on top of a company’s intranet.  In addition to building a basic profile, Socialcast also enables users to post questions and answers, ideas, and project status.  Keeping track of other knowledge workers is enabled through streams (in a similar way to Twitter) that can be fully customized.  A sales rep, for instance, may want to know what is happening with the rest of the sales team, so he can choose to see actions taken by the team.  He may not care about what is happening with HR, so he would not opt-in to display that information.  Expertise profiles of users are also automatically and dynamically built by a semantic engine, using what you look at, where you spend your time, and what applications you use to connect you to new content and relevant streams of information.

The real test, however, is to find value for the enterprise in social software, and then convince decision makers that social networking tools can make an impact and that they are more than toys.  Social networking tools have the potential to impact knowledge worker productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness, and if deployed in concert with other tools and in compliance with the one environment rule to enable friction free knowledge sharing, then tools such as Socialcast may well become part of the glue that holds an organization together.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Lotusphere: Yellow is the New Black

Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 15th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 15th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Europe.

IBM unleashed a fire hose of announcements at the opening general session.  We’ll try to walk through the most interesting ones here.  It’s a lot of material but you should read through it regardless of whether you use mostly IBM tools or mostly Microsoft tools as there are implications here for all.

One memorable moment from the conference’s opening session: Mike Rhodin,  the general manager of Lotus Software, aped Steve Job’s keynote from MacWorld in which Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by pulling it out of an envelope.  Rhodin pulled the new (and very yellow) Lotus Foundations server out of an envelope.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.0.1
While this may sound like an insignificant maintenance release, it most definitely isn’t.  There are some significant enhancements to be found in it.  (Of course, the move from dot-zero usually allows companies to start deploying the new version as many of them are allergic to dot-zero releases.)

8.0.1 includes several significant updates including My Widgets and Traveler.  My Widgets (which some, including IBM execs, call a Web 2.0 feature) uses a technology called Live Text that identifies patterns and phrases and associates them with an appropriate widget. (Live Text is similar to what Microsoft calls Smart Tags.)  One example would be the recognition of an address within an e-mail message and the ability to automatically display directions from the recipient’s location to that address.

Another example is retrieving real-time flight information by clicking on a flight number in an e-mail or itinerary.  Knowledge workers can add (via drag-and-drop) an almost unlimited number of widgets including Google Gadgets, feeds, Web pages, or custom programs to the widgets panel in the Lotus Notes sidebar.

8.0.1 also includes Domino Web Access Lite.  This is a browser-based e-mail client optimized for low bandwidth environments.  It’s AJAX based and includes in-line spell check, rich editing, and Google Maps integration.  The standard version of Domino Web Access has a much faster startup time.  Finally, 8.0.1 adds 35% compression for mail files.  Lotus is introducing some compression with 8.0.1 and further compression with 8.5 (see below).

Lotus Notes Traveler is a very cool client for Windows Mobile devices that provides automatic, real-time replication of e-mail (including attachments, calendar, contacts, etc.) to the mobile device.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5
8.0.1 may be hot off the press but IBM is not sitting still.  Notes and Domino 8.5 will support AJAX, style sheets, and RSS or Atom feeds.  It also supports better ID management, compression technologies that can reduce storage requirements by up to 35% for attachments on Domino servers, and also reduce overall disk space requirements for databases by up to 35%.  Lotus will also update templates for discussion databases and document libraries and introduce Domino Designer 8.5, the first Designer client based on the Eclipse and Lotus Expeditor frameworks.  This will provide a full palette of AJAX-based controls that you can drag-and-drop directly into Notes and Domino applications.

Lotus Protector
IBM wouldn’t skimp on naming, this is really called IBM Lotus Protector for Mail Security, but what’s key here is that this is a hardware appliance (in bright yellow) that provides virus and spam protection through the IBM Proventia Network Mail Security System.  Protector also uses IBM Internet Security Systems’ threat mitigation and information security technologies and the IBM ISS X-Force research and development team played a significant role here.

Symphony
Beta 4 of IBM’s desktop productivity tools, based on an open programming model, will be available by the end of this month.  The new beta allows software vendors to connect documents to applications; documents can access and manage applications such as the issuance of a shipping order or an invoice directly from a spreadsheet.  Information flows both ways; inventory data can pass into Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets for analysis.

Companies will be able to use the workflow inherent in Notes in conjunction with composite apps that are built using the Symphony tools.

IBM is making available a series of plug-ins including IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte Meeting, Lotus Sametime Unyte Share, and IBM WebSphere Translation Server on the Symphony community Web site.

IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes
IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes provides a hosted and managed environment for Notes and Domino as well as Sametime, Lotus Connections, and Lotus Quickr tools.

IBM Lotus Mashups
Mashups allows knowledge workers to create enterprise mashups such as ad hoc visualizations created by blending information or data from both enterprise repositories and the Web.

It includes a browser-based tool for mashup creation; ready-for-use widgets; a catalog for sharing and locating additional widgets and mashups; a builder for the creation of widgets that can access enterprise systems.

IBM Lotus Connections 2.0
The new version of Connections features a new home page built using Lotus mashup technology which aggregates and filters social data from the five Connections services, namely Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Dogear, and Activities.  This allows knowledge workers to see what’s new across their professional networks and find the information they need to finish projects.

Lotus has also enhanced the community component of Connections with discussion forums and the ability to link to various wikis including Lotus Quickr, SocialText, and Atlassian.

IBM Lotus Quickr 8.1
Lotus Quickr is IBM’s Collaborative Business Environment for teams.  The new version adds content libraries, team discussion forums, Weblogs, wikis, and new connectors to information sources.  IBM will release Lotus Quickr Entry, which will serve as a entry-level version of the platform.  IBM Also announced plans to integrate Quickr with various enterprise content management systems such as IBM FileNet P8 and IBM Content Manager.

Lotus Foundations
IBM hasn’t focused on smaller organizations, which it defines as businesses with five to 500 employees, in years.  Lotus Foundations is intended to be a line of Linux-powered software servers that are offered through IBM Business Partners.

IBM is counting on simplicity – the server software will require little technical expertise and will be autonomic – to appeal to this audience.  This means it should install without requiring an IT department to deploy and administer it.  The first Foundations offering will be a server with the Lotus Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, backup and recovery, and office productivity tools pre-installed.

A key component of Foundations comes out of IBM’s acquisition last week of Net Integration Technologies, a privately-held company that provides a simplified business server software solution for small businesses.  It’s not a coincidence that the company’s platform supports e-mail, file management, directory services, back-up and recovery, and office productivity tools.

Atlantic
IBM and SAP announced a joint offering, code-named “Atlantic.”  Atlantic will integrate information from the SAP Business Suite into the Lotus Notes client, allowing knowledge workers to remain in one environment for more of their work.

Bluehouse
Another interesting if somewhat amorphous announcement was the beta of a Web-delivered service with the code name “Bluehouse.”  Bluehouse provides extranet services (file sharing, instant messaging, social networking, Web conferencing, and project management) that allow smaller companies to collaborate with one another.

Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution
IBM will offer an integrated Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution with support for Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system from Canonical.  Ubuntu is popular for thin-client and desktop/laptop applications (as opposed to servers).  The client is based on Lotus Notes 8 and Lotus Symphony.  The client supports e-mail, calendar, unified communications, as well as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities that support the Open Document Format (ODF).  It’s built on Lotus Expeditor, which is based on the open source Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

Full support for Ubuntu within Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony is planned with Lotus Notes 8.5 in the second half of 2008.  The Lotus Symphony office productivity suite is included with Lotus Notes 8 and is also available as a separate download, at no additional charge.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Report from Lotusphere

Friday, January 26th, 2007 by Jonathan Spira

Going almost directly from the Information Overload symposium last week to Lotusphere in Orlando this week creates an entirely new level of information overload.

Let’s take a look at what we saw:

First and foremost, IBM announced the public beta of Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8 to commence in February.  Previously code-named “Hannover,” the new version, which supports composite applications and uses the Eclipse framework, replaces both Lotus Notes version 7.x as well as the Workplace tools IBM offered in recent years.  The Notes client will support enterprise mash-ups, linking multiple systems together in a variety of ways to provide better and more contextual information to knowledge workers.  The Notes 8 client runs on Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux operating systems.

Features include “Recent Contacts” and “Message Recall.”  With Recent Contacts, users will get a one-click, dashboard view of recently sent emails and chats to quickly locate a key contact.  The Message Recall feature will let users quickly recall an email message after it has been sent by mistake, saving a user from a potential conflict or miscommunication situation.

Within Activities, knowledge workers can bring together various e-mail messages, instant messages, documents, and other items into one logical unit.  It uses Web 2.0 technologies including Backpack, Atom, Tagging, REST, Ajax, and JSON.

Notes 8 also includes productivity editors that support the Open Document Format (ODF).  Knowledge workers can create word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation documents in ODF format.  The productivity editors also support Microsoft Office and Open Office file formats.

IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 7.5.1.  The new version of the instant messaging and collaboration tool adds real-time point-to-point video, tabbed chat, integration with Microsoft Office applications including Microsoft Outlook, support for Linux servers, and Apple Macintosh client support.  The tabbed interface is especially useful.  The integration with Office should prove invaluable.

Although a lot of companies were at Lotusphere displaying tools that work with Sametime and Notes, one that stood out was Siemens’ OpenScape.  OpenScape has been around for several years but only worked with Microsoft LCS.  The new version, which is Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) based, has shed its LCS roots and is built on Siemens’ unified SOA applications framework.  It provides click-to-contact, click-to-conference, and what Siemens refers to as “full-spectrum” presence functionality to Lotus Sametime users.  Integration with Lotus Sametime will provide users with presence information about a colleague’s availability – before attempting communication – thus enabling them to choose the best method and time to communicate effectively on the first attempt.

Leveraging its research over many years, IBM entered what it calls Social Networking with Lotus Connections.  Social Networking may be a misnomer, first because it is not “social” but more importantly because it is what some might refer to as a knowledge management tool in disguise.

Connections is designed to connect users to communities of interest, facilitate participation in professional networks, and connect people with information more quickly.  Connections has five components: Activities, Communities, Dogear, Profiles, and Blogs.  Activities supports organizing work and interaction around a specific activity, allowing knowlege workers to organize, share, and collaborate with colleagues; Blogs allows users to create, post, and search through blogs and also supports Atom feeds.  Lotus Notes version 8 users will be able to access Activities directly from the Lotus Notes inbox, including support for dragging and dropping an e-mail message directly into an activity.  Websphere Portal and Lotus Connections users will be able to use light weight portlets to display new Dogear bookmarks, recent blogs entries, and search Profiles to locate an expert.

Last but not least, IBM announced Lotus Quickr, which replaces Quickplace.  The new offering is a team collaboration and content management platform that connects with desktop tools including Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes 7.x and 8.x, wikis and Weblogs, and content repositories.  Knowledge workers can save attachments into a document library or team workspace.  When sending e-mails with attachments, users are prompted to send a link instead of the attachment.  Quickr is built on open Eclipse technology and users can navigate through Quickr content using Windows Explorer or the My Documents interface.  Users may also syndicate content using RSS/Atom feeds.  A personal edition that includes desktop connectors and content library capabilities will be provided to licensed users of Lotus Notes and Domino at no additional charge.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.


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