Announcing the expanded Lotus Sametime family and IBM’s acquisition of WebDialogs Web conferencing service
Today during his VoiceCon keynote, Lotus General Manager Mike Rhodin made some very significant announcements.
1. We are expanding Lotus Sametime from a single product to a family of products, running the spectrum from the delivery of core, secure IM capabilities to advanced features such as persistent group chat and community tools that make it easy to find information and share expertise.
2. We are introducing a new telephony-related offering that will offer leading capabilities to end users while simplifying the back-end integration with their telephony infrastructure.
3. We are entering the Web conferencing service market through the acquisition of WebDialogs.
As you can see, this announcement expands Sametime along multiple dimensions: offering richer collaboration tools, tighter integration of communications services into the Sametime product offering, and new deliver models.
There are a lot more details available here and here. I don't want to repeat everything here, but to summarize what we announced:
IBM Lotus Sametime Entry 8.0 will be a new offering designed to help companies to get started with enterprise IM, cost-effectively. Think of this as all of the capabilities of Sametime that Lotus Notes users are entitled to today - encrypted IM, rich text, emoticons, chat history, spell check, packaged as an easy entry point for companies that, shall we say, might not have any entitled enterprise IM capabilities.
IBM Lotus Sametime Standard 8.0 will be the follow-on release to Lotus Sametime 7.5.1 and the entitlement path for current Sametime customers. Planned enhancements include broader platform support and continued enhancements in user experience and performance.
IBM Lotus Sametime Advanced 8.0 is a new offering that will package all of the capabilities of Lotus Sametime Standard together with new, advanced capabilities, such as persistent group chat, broadcast tools that will allow users to pose questions to communities of experts and tap an organization's knowledge base in real time, a new plugin that will allow for instant desktop or application sharing, and community/server-based geographic location awareness. There will be a tradeup path for customers currently using Sametime to Sametime Advanced.
IBM Lotus Sametime "Unified Telephony" software is a new offering that will provide capabilities both for the end user and through new middleware components. For the end users, it will provide for onscreeen alerts of incoming phone calls, rules-based phone routing for incoming calls (so you can send messages to voicemail when your calendar shows you are busy, or automatically route all calls to your home office number if your Sametime location detects that you are working from home), an integrated soft phone, and integrated phone and desktop presence. On the middleware side, this offering will simplify the process of connecting Sametime to multiple back-end PBX systems, regardless of which vendor (or how many vendors) you might be using. Key components of this offering will come through technology from Siemens OpenScape. I'll link to the press release on the Siemens relationship as soon as it's available.
The WebDialogs acquisition is an important one, because we know there is a lot of demand for Web conferencing delivered as a service, and also because there are a lot of companies that are running (or would like to run) an on-premise solution for internal usage but use a service for external meetings. This acquisition means that you now have a single vendor to work with for both your on premise and service-based Web conferencing solutions. While the first step we have taken is to rebrand the service Lotus Sametime Unyte, over time we expect to more closely align the offerings in terms of look and feel and capabilities. And if WebDialogs isn't a household name where you are, chances are you may have used them anyway. A good piece of their business to date has been on providing Web conferencing capabilities to some of the leading Audio Conferencing providers.
So, that's the "news." And please read the sites above for more details, FAQs, trials, etc. But, since you probably came here for more than just what you could find on our official sites, let's get to some of the questions that have already come up or that I expect may come up.
Is Sametime Advanced really "Sametime on WebSphere?" No. The new capabilities being introduced in Sametime Advanced will run on a WebSphere Application Server, but as an adjunct to the existing infrastructure used to deliver the core Sametime capabilities. I know there has even been some confusion inside IBM around this, and so I wanted to head this one off early. While Sametime Advanced will require WAS, this is not "Sametime on WAS" or "Sametime without Domino."
Is any of this just "Workplace IM" rebranded? No - there's nothing from Workplace IM in here. The core IM capabilities in Sametime Entry, Standard and Advanced are all supplied by the same technology used today in Sametime (with requisite updates with the new release, of course).
Does my Sametime license entitle me to use the WebDialogs service at no additional charge? Hopefully this will not come as a surprise, but it isn't possible for us to entitle people that have bought Sametime to the use of a service with no additional purchase.
What's up with those names? It seems that early feedback from a few folks - at least based on the preview yesterday - has raised some questions on our choice of names. As anyone ever involved in naming products knows, this is not an easy process. We wanted names that convey the capabilities that are being delivered, while still tying back to the fact that all of these products, one way or another are "Sametime," all while not resulting in a mile-long run-on name. "Entry" is designed for people getting started with IM. "Advanced" offers advanced capabilities to Sametime users in addition to all of the capabilities they have today in Sametime. "Standard" - there was a lot of debate on this (as with all the names); we found pros and cons with all the names considered for what today is known just as "Sametime," and Standard is what we felt did the best job in the context of the portfolio.
Have more questions? Post them below and I'll do my best to respond. And I'll continue to post updates on the news, links to the press release, and other updates as they come along.
Details on the VoiceCon Sametime Product Family announcement
ibm.com/sametime (About the WebDialogs Acquisition)
Sametime Product Family FAQs
WebDialogs acquisition FAQs
WebDialogs acquisition press release
Sametime Product Family press release (to be posted)
Siemens press release (to be posted)