IBM/Lotus next week will ship Version 8.0 of its Sametime real-time communications platform and a new entry-level version for those seeking basic enterprise instant messaging capabilities.
In addition, IBM/Lotus early next year will ship an Advanced version of Sametime 8 that will include additional features such as persistent chat. In mid-2008, the company will ship Sametime Unified Telephony, a middleware platform that integrates Sametime VoIP call features with multiple PBXs.
In August, IBM/Lotus said it would expand the number of Sametime versions to give corporate users a choice based on the number of users they have and the feature sets they desire.
Also in mid-2008, the company plans to integrate Sametime 8 with its new Lotus Symphony suite of productivity applications.
IBM already offers similar integration between Sametime and Microsoft's Office.
IBM plans to build its Sametime/Symphony marriage around the Eclipse open standard and open API's for audio, video and PBX integration. IBM officials say they are likely to add support for older versions of Sametime at a later date.
IBM's strategy is being fueled by the race to provide companies with fully integrated collaboration platforms, including telephony, and the renewal of a long-standing collaboration tools battle against Microsoft. The unified communications fight also is expanding to include Cisco, Google, Novell, Oracle and Sun.
Users are also tracking the technology as evidenced by a recent Network World survey conducted among 245 members of its Technology Opinion Panel that showed 85% view collaboration technologies as "important" or "somewhat important" to their future productivity goals.
Lotus is positioning its Sametime 8 Entry version as a way for companies to move from a consumer-based IM network to an internal system they can manage and integrate with a corporate directory. It also supports multiperson chat, awareness, spell check, a rich text editor, contact list management and chat history. Sametime Entry includes presence and chat features and is identical to the IM features shipping today in Lotus Notes/Domino 8.
Entry also can be integrated with Microsoft Outlook.
The Sametime 8 Standard version is the upgrade from IBM's currently shipping Sametime 7.5.
Sametime Standard also includes support for Lotus Domino 8; the ability to run Sametime in a virtual environment on top of VMware; support for Nokia E-series, Sony Ericsson, and Windows Mobile 6 devices; point-to-point video capabilities for Mac users, and integration with Microsoft Office 2007.
The Advanced version slated to ship next year will include support for instant sharing of any application open on a desktop; and Skill Tap, a tool for creating communities of users linked by real-time collaboration tools.