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IBM lights online collaboration services


IBM/Lotus has launched the first major piece of its LotusLive online strategy, its biggest move yet to deliver collaboration services online to corporate users.


The company went live Tuesday with LotusLive Engage, a bundle of services that includes instant messaging, Web conferencing, file sharing, charts and forms. Engage will be followed with an online e-mail service based on technology IBM acquired when it bought Outblaze earlier this year. Outblaze brings along 40 million users
IBM/Lotus officials said other services are slated for release this year, but they would not detail what functionality they will provide. IBM/Lotus also promised in January other bundles targeted at specific industries and business needs.

IBM/Lotus has partnerships with LinkedIn, Salesforce.com and Skype to integrate those services into LotusLive.

The LotusLive platform, including Engage, is targeted at large and small companies, corporate divisions or departments, and is designed for internal or partner collaboration.

Critics say IBM faces a challenge in integrating all the technology that is part of LotusLive, which was formerly called Bluehouse.  
Engage includes profile and contact management that is based on Lotus Connections; online meetings based on LotusLive Meetings; file sharing, IM based on Sametime; charts, which is based on an IBM Research project called Many Eyes; and lightweight project management.

For its part, IBM says it is using open standards and an Eclipse foundation to foster integration between LotusLive services, on-premise software such as Notes/Domino, and third-party applications.

"We have got world-class collaboration and what we are doing is bringing all that competency together and using the Web for innovation," says Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration service for Lotus Software.

Challenges also exist on the competition side. Critics say IBM must establish a reseller channel against giant online collaboration competitors such as Microsoft, Cisco and Google in order to prosper, and cultivate the small and midsize market where it has not been strong historically.

Engage is priced between US$15 and $55 per month per user depending on which services are used.

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