IBM introduces new Lotus Workplace products

The company hopes to lure new users to its integrated suite of applications

Four Lotus Workplace software products launched yesterday in Boston will make it easier and cheaper for users to collaborate and share information at work, IBM executives said.

They unveiled new tools, including those for e-mail and online collaboration, and took pains to counter what they said is "FUD" (fear, uncertainty and doubt) seeded by competitors about the future of the Lotus Software Group's Domino and Notes systems.

The new products were designed using a common technology and have common user interface and navigation features. They're intended to consolidate popular workplace applications such as e-mail, instant messaging and group collaboration in a single, integrated environment, IBM said.

The new product lineup includes:

  • Messaging 1.1, simplified e-mail software that's designed to extend access to "unserved users," such as mobile or technologically unsophisticated employees, said Larry Bowden, vice president of Lotus Workplace products at IBM. The new software offers stripped-down mail and personal calendar features and can be used with Domino, Web portals, Web browsers or third-party e-mail clients.
  • Team Collaboration 1.1, which integrates features such as instant messaging, Web conferences and Web content publishing to allow workplace teams to collaborate and share information online. For example, a call support operator could use Team Collaboration 1.1 to find technical content or to figure out which technical support representatives are online and contact those people for help with a problem, Bowden said.
  • Collaborative Learning 1.1, which is an updated version of the Lotus Learning Management System, a training tool that allows companies to centralize online and classroom-based education programs. Using Collaborative Learning 1.1, employees can access course materials online and track their education-related activities.
  • Content Management 1.1, which uses technology IBM acquired in July with its purchase of Web content management company Aptrix. The product allows Lotus customers to publish and manage Web-based content on a corporate intranet or the Internet.

The new applications replace a hodgepodge of software programs with an integrated and streamlined suite that can share functionality, IBM said.

For example, the features that tell users which instant messaging correspondents are online are also used in a "people finder" that enables Workplace users to look up employee information stored in a Lightweight Directory Access Protocol directory.

Tighter integration addresses customer complaints about Lotus' previous habit of developing isolated programs that often required custom integration to work together, said attendee Peter Matthews of Adience Design in Hamilton Square, N.J., a technology consulting company that works with Lotus customers.

The Workplace products should help ease uncertainty among Lotus users about IBM's plans for the core Lotus Notes and Domino products, said Michael Barker, chief operating officer at Adience, who also attended the launch event.

Meeting across the Charles River from Lotus' longtime home in Cambridge, Mass., IBM executives assured an audience of Lotus customers and business partners that it will continue developing and supporting the Notes and Domino systems long into the future, even as it tries to attract new customers by embracing open standards such as J2EE and Web services.

The company also previewed its plans for next year, including the release of Domino Versions 6.5.1 and 7 and Lotus Notes Version 6.5. "IBM will pass the intelligence test on this," Bowden said. "We have 110 million Notes and Domino users. We're not going to throw them away."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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