IBM Makes Major Moves on UC Front

IBM earlier this week acquired Web conferencing service provider WebDialogs in a flurry of activity surrounding its unified communications offerings.

With the acquisition of WebDialogs, a privately held firm with more than 500,000 users worldwide, IBM is adding a software-as-a-service component to its Lotus Sametime unified communications products, which it also revamped this week.

As part of that effort, Big Blue expanded the Lotus Sametime software into a product family that will include new telephony integration software. The software suite, will include:
• Lotus Sametime Entry, which will include instant messaging capabilities, presence awareness, spell check capabilities, emoticon support, chat history functionality and contact list management features.
• Lotus Sametime Standard, which will include on-premises Web conferencing; presence, IM and location awareness; and the ability to add plugins and mashups as well as communicate with users on supported public IM networks. In addition, the upcoming version is expected to include point-to-point video capabilities for Macintosh clients and support for Microsoft Office and Outlook 2007 integration.
• Lotus Sametime Advanced, which features sophisticated collaboration capabilities such as persistent group chat and the industry's first suite of broadcast community tools that will make it easier to find information and share expertise in real time. Additionally, plugins developed by IBM Research that enable users to instantly share their screen and find contacts who are working in the same location are also planned.

At the same time, IBM Global Technology Services is expanding its converged communications services to include the Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony product suite. This offering is being developed to make it possible to manage communications across multiple business telephone systems and access them through virtually any application. The product suite will incorporate elements of Siemens’ OpenScape open unified communications capabilities, enabling Lotus customers to decouple their unified communications investments from their PBX infrastructure. This makes a single, consistent communications image across a heterogeneous telephony environment possible. As a result, IT departments will no longer need to manage a range of varied, vendor-dependent approaches to unified communications. Furthermore, they can make application integration decisions based on business needs, not PBX capabilities.

With Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony, users will be able to:
• Manage incoming calls. Users can send the call to another device, such as a cell phone, or directly to voicemail; answer the call through their computer for a voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) conversation; and set rules on how they would like to handle calls based on their status.
• See who is available to communicate and how. In addition to IM presence status, users can see if a contact is on the phone from within their Lotus Sametime contact list.
• Connect with colleagues faster. Users can turn their PCs into telephones with soft phone capabilities that allow them to dial a contact and talk through VoIP directly from their desktop. Additionally, click-to-call and click-to-conference capabilities enable users to select individuals from their contact lists and speak with them through VoIP or any telephone.
• Connect with a variety of back-end and legacy systems in mixed-vendor environments with multiple business telephone systems.

"Whether an organization is just getting started with IM, is ready for advanced community collaboration tools, or wants to integrate telephone communications into their unified communications environment, the Lotus Sametime portfolio is ready to meet the needs of any enterprise,"  Bruce Morse, vice president of unified communications and collaboration at IBM’s Lotus business unit, said in a statement.
Finally, the IBM System i team began previewing a forthcoming solution that builds on its portfolio of System i IP Telephony offerings with a new solution that pairs unified messaging for WebSphere Voice Response with VoiceRite Unified Messaging Plug-ins for IBM Lotus Sametime and Lotus Notes 8 on a single System i server. The solution will help businesses combine voicemail, instant messaging, email, Web and IT infrastructure, application development, and business processing on a single platform.

In explaining all the changes and additions, Michael Rhodin, general manager of IBM Lotus Software, said, "We are aggressively pursuing new market opportunities across the board."

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