Lotusphere: IBM Pushes Messaging, Collaboration

IBM plans to re-enter the Web mail market later this year with an enterprise-focused e-mail product running on its WebSphere and DB2 technologies.

The unnamed e-mail product from Mass.-based IBM Lotus Software Group, was announced at the Lotusphere show in Orlando, where Big Blue took center stage to hype the messaging and collaboration capabilities in the next generation of Lotus products.

The biggest news was the launch of the beta version of the standards-based e-mail software, which was built to complement an existing Lotus Domino messaging environment or even messaging software from competitors. Big Blue said the new Java-based product, internally dubbed ‘Next Gen,’ would be perfect for retail clerks, factory floor and assembly line employees that receive a lower volume of messages.

Pricing has not been disclosed for the new product, which ships in the second quarter.

IBM also outlined plans to replace its LearningSpace training software with a new Lotus Learning Management System, which is expected to be an end-to-end e-learning platform that connects to a slew of other enterprise software like portals, ERP, HRIS and CRM.

The new IBM Lotus Learning Management System will be pushed towards new customers although the company intends to continue support for LearningSpace. Additionally, Big Blue plans to roll out a new e-learning content validation system to simplify the implementation of course content for enterprise customers. The ‘Ready for IBM Lotus Learning software’, IBM said it would validate third-party content for compatibility with Lotus e-learning software.

At Lotusphere, which runs through January 30, IBM also announced new features within its WebSphere Portal software that touts workplace collaboration improvements. “[The new capabilities] allow users to interact with multiple collaboration applications — corporate white pages, organizational charts, instant messages, team workplaces and virtual meetings — quickly and efficiently to increase individual and organizational productivity,” the company said.

For example, the new ‘Collaboration Center’ within the WebSphere portal lets users search for and find colleagues in an organizational directory from anywhere in the portal and instantly initiate contact. It also lets customers integrate, mix and match existing Lotus portfolio capabilities with other applications in a standards-based environment.

IBM said the new Collaboration Center would also be fitted with new portlets, including PeopleFinder, an online corporate white pages and organizational navigation tool; QuickPlace (My Lotus Team Workplaces) that lets users create, search and manage multiple Team Workplaces in a single view; and SameTime, the Lotus Web conferencing software that runs online meetings for corporate customers.

“All three portlets feature built-in Lotus Instant Messaging (SameTime) capabilities, enabling users to simply click on a name to determine whether the employee they are trying to locate is online and potentially ready to collaborate,” IBM said.

Another announcement aimed at Lotus Domino developers saw the release of the IBM Lotus Domino Toolkit for WebSphere Studio. The new development tools will include:

* Custom JSP Tags: Designed to let Domino developers use Domino 6 custom Java Server Page (JSP) tags to access existing Domino data in WebSphere Studio.

* Reuseable forms, views, agents: Allows developers to view existing Lotus Notes databases deployed on the Domino server and reuse their forms, views and agents in new J2EE applications.

* Eclipse Open Source platform: Built on the Eclipse open source platform and shares a common look and feel of other WebSphere toolkits.

IBM said the new toolkit, which requires both Domino 6 and WebSphere Studio V5, would be included for free in a future version of Domino Designer 6. A beta version of is currently available.