I've been doing the rounds across the country (Dallas, Orlando and, today, Chicago) talking about what's new in Sametime 8.5.2. I get questions about what is the main theme for 8.5.2.
As most of you remember, 8.5 was all about meetings. 8.5.1 introduced refinements to that theme by making the meetings experience even easier. 8.5.2 continues to drive along those lines with a special focus on audio and video. So, I can say 8.5.2 is all about the audio and video experience.
This release brings audio and video to the Web meetings client:
Audio and video on Web meetings opens a plethora of new possibilities.
For instance, all you need to do to launch a meeting room enabled for audio and video is embed a URL to the room on your Web page. The Web page may correspond to a portal, a self-service application, a customer service application or anything you want. A Sametime meeting room, being as easy to launch as a chat session, can become your new paradigm for customer service. Why stop at chatting when you can offer your customers a full-blown meeting room?
Bringing audio and video to the Web meetings client provides us with a nice deployment pattern for other capabilities on the Web browser. The browser extension model we're using to deliver the Sametime Web Player is secure, reliable and offers great performance. Unlike our old applet-based approach, You install it once and that's it. It can be downloaded the first time you enter a meeting room or it can be pre-provisioned on the browser by IT.
In addition to delivering audio and video on the Web meetings client, we're also delivering new capabilities that users will only notice if they're not there.
First on the list is NAT traversal, a new component based on the ICE/STUN/TURN standards. The new Sametime TURN Server (I wanted "Stun Server" but apparently there was a risk that no one would come near the thing...) helps Sametime audio and video play nice with firewalls so people can hear and see each other regardless of where they happen to be.
We're also delivering bandwidth management capabilities for audio and video. The new Sametime Bandwidth Manager helps audio and video play nice with the network. We all know audio and video tend to be bandwidth hogs. Bandwidth Manager regulates bandwidth usage to allow other applications to use the network as well.
We're also enhancing our TCSPI adapter model. 8.5.2 allows you to deploy two TCSPI adapters simultaneously. You can deploy, for instance, a third-party video adapter and an audio conferencing bridge adapter concurrently to give users a richer audio and video conferencing experience.
Finally, the new deployment option for the Sametime soft phone (SUT Lite license), allows you to integrate Sametime to certified SIP-based video end points as well as SIP gateways to enable telephone and video calls directly from the Sametime Connect client.
As you can see, we put a lot of effort in making audio and video easier to adopt; in providing a richer experience and in enabling more of the Sametime user interface with audio and video. Notice a trend here? If you do, you'll notice how our focus is turning to audio and video and mobility: we're delivering two new native mobile clients, one for Android, and a meetings client for BlackBerry. Stay tuned and you'll see more of this in upcoming releases.
I just wanted to let you know that we have a podcast planned for this Friday (5/27) at 10:00am EST with our friends at Sennheiser. Caleb Barlow will interview Lars Rasmussen about the importance of using quality headsets for unified communications.
Please join us as http://www.blogtalkradio.com/unifiedcommunications
If you are working with colleagues, partners, or customers, (or all of the above) who speak another language, I suspect you could have benefited from a tool that provides real-time translation of your chat conversations. This is obvious if you are a non-English speaker (trust me..) and either wanted to speed up the IM conversation (typing in a foreign language does take much more time) or wanted to improve the quality and depth of the conversation... (one liners take you so far). Even if you are a native English speaker, this can be helpful at times, to make sure that there is no ambiguity in the collaboration. Yes, you can use free Web-based translation tools but this is not very practical (ongoing copy/paste, multiple windows, etc.), generates a lower quality translation (especially for business and industry content), and puts confidential content into someone else's Web site.
So wait no further... On May 18th (so many things happening on that day !) LionBridge will launch GeoFluent Instant Messaging for Sametime, a SaaS-based solution for real-time translation of chats. You type, they translate, and the chat participants see the results, real-time. This service is based on IBM technology (Watson Research Labs) with years of research going into it.
And if you don't interact today with individuals from another culture and language, you soon will... So you should still listen to this podcast, and get ready.
On November 10, the Lotus User Group hosted a Webcast by Marlon Machado, Product Manager Sametime
Platform and Solutions at IBM Lotus. The Webcast was titled "Optimize Your
Business Apps with Communications and Collaboration Services”. For those of you who could not make it, the session was recorded and is now available online for limited time, free to
LotusUserGroup.org members. You can watch it on the LotusUserGroup.org site here.
For yesterday's Business Partner Tuesday I was struggling to find a topic when I read a review by Mike Nolan on FierceVoIP on the Microsoft Lync release. It struck me that many of the announcements that were being touted were similar to announcements IBM and Sametime have made with our Business Partners 12-18 months ago. There's plenty of room in this growing market, but I couldn't help myself; I just had to point out in a comment that what may be touted as new is already successfully in market with IBM and IBM Business Partners:
Thank you for the update on new UC developments. I wanted to bring to your reporters' attention that many of these developments are not new. In fact, IBM has already worked with many of these partners to develop Unified Communications solutions built on IBM Sametime. Here's just three examples of the over 400 business partners we have around unified communications:
Before Twisted Pair announced WAVE Lync Communicator, IBM business partner KITS developed Radio Connect for similar radio-frequency integration with unified communications back in November 2008 (press release), with several government customers already using the joint IBM / Radio Connect solution.
Similar to ProtoSphere's announcement of their 3-D virtual immersive environment, IBM announced back in June 2009 a Virtual Collaboration Services for Lotus Sametime. Several large customers are already using 3D immersive collaboration experience for brainstorming today.
And we've been doing cloud for some time already: IBM Business Partner Meetrix has already announced cloud and hybrid deployments of Sametime unified communications.
I'm probably a little late to this particular debate, seeing that it started on November 9. The CRM Magazine Blog highlighted a debate going on, started by Nick Jones over at Gartner, asserting that unified communications is a Big Vendor Scam. What I found interesting was Mr. Jones' relating UC vendors Cisco and Microsoft as "dinosaurs in a world of fast-moving furry mammals":
“[this] ill-assorted mix of technologies that vendors want to sell in a
single bundle because it’s convenient for them,” is actually useless to
employees; Twitter, Facebook, and Skype are much more attractive to
consumers and are a lot more “fashionable.”
I have several problems with his argument:
Integration and interoperability to end-users is far from useless. Having to switch constantly between applications is rather distracting and productivity-sapping. I'm an eager technologist, so if I find the "switching costs" of going between applications an irritant, I can only imagine the psychic cost for the average worker. The ability for Sametime to integrate with the way I want to work is hugely important to me as an end-user. I can use Sametime without ever leaving my Notes environment (or, Outlook if you so choose), I can integrate with Twitter and Connections in a single dashboard (oh, yes it does - just take a look at this nifty little Status Updatr Plug-in on OpenNTF), I can use Sametime within a Portal, etc. Certainly we have a longer way to go, especially as communications tools continue to innovate, but there's always going to be a balance between bringing in what's new vs. conservatively sticking with what works.
Twitter, Facebook and Skype are attractive to consumers because they're free, not necessarily because their capabilities are better. I've been using all three for quite some time now, and while I would definitely describe them as "fashionable", their user interfaces, capabilities, changing terms of service, and quality of service leave much to be desired (just one recent example: a LifeHacker comparison of Skype with iChat and GoogleTalk shows they all have work to do).
Quality of Service matters. You get what you pay for, and free means you get less. If my PBX failed as often at voice quality and video quality as my recent Skype experiences, I'de be fighting my IT department tooth and nail. Just another example: I gladly pay extra for a Mac because I can use iChat to integrate all my various personal chat networks (including Facebook, AOL and GoogleTalk). That's real value I'm willing to pay for as a consumer, so businesses are willing to pay for similar integrative capabilities for their users.
And a pedantic quibble - a Ponzi scheme assumes you're robbing one customer to pay the previous one, which eventually comes crashing down like a house of cards. I like a competitive dig as much as my competitors do, but I would never accuse Microsoft nor Cisco of trying to do that. No serious vendor in their right mind goes that route, it's business suicide. So if you want to claim a vendor might be over-charging and under-delivering, go for it. But calling it a Ponzi scheme just comes across as needless provocation.
Perhaps it's IBM's different viewpoint on unified communications. We're not looking at it as if it were a single stack of capabilities - there are simply too many different capabilities involved and the mix of what's important is unique to each enterprise. That's why we take an open platform approach vs. a single-stack approach. So that we can learn from, and integrate with these fast-moving furry mammals. Consumer technologies do tend to be leading indicators of where enterprise technologies are going, so it's very important keep an eye on what's happening there. And an open platform approach where you can (quickly) integrate these new capabilities can only help.
In addition to all the continuing coverage we received from our social collaboration platform launch, there was some UC-specific news as well. The Discuss UC blog posted a piece on a recent Polycom telepresence event that showcased why UC is becoming a "must have" strategy for enterprises today. Quoting our UC Program Director:
"Collaboration is what we do on daily basis, it’s just what we do, and it needs to be seamless," commented John Del Pizzo of IBM. "Integrating desktop and mobile devices, UC enabled collaboration becomes ubiquitous and will drive transformative and innovative work flow environments."
...seamless and unified methods of communication will help drive the innovation engine through employee empowerment, satisfaction, and motivation.
In Norway, IDG also reported on Polycom's Unified Collaboration Solution for IBM Lotus Sametime that will help organizations reduce cost while improving productivity. IDC's Cindy Borovick is quoted as stating:
"Integrating voice and video communications within the IBM UC environment will help customers drive a more collaborative culture by enhancing the interaction between locations while also reducing travel costs. Customers will benefit by Polycom and IBM working together because it will provide a more seamless experience for end-users and IT managers, along with better investment protection."
"We are proud to recognize winning companies for the sixth annual
INTERNET TELEPHONY Excellence Awards. All the companies recognized have
created IP communications products that have proven to be exceptional
and in the end delivered winning solutions that benefited their
customer," stated TMC's CEO, Rich Tehrani.
The 2010 INTERNET TELEPHONY Excellent Award winners are published in the October 2010 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY magazine, www.itmag.com.
It's always an honor to be given these awards (and we've won many). But it's even more of an honor when you choose us as your UC vendor. For that we thank you even more.
With the social business launch and all, we've been pretty busy around here. So time to kick back at the end of a long couple of weeks with the latest installment of Friday Funnies. I saw this from a tweet stream, hope you like (from C-Section Comics).
As we posted about over at the Lotus Knows blog earlier today, IBM has announced the coming availability of Connections 3.0, and the IBM social collaboration platform. Why should those of us in the unified communications business care?
The inclusion of Lotus Sametime as one of the key platform components of the IBM social collaboration platform -- along with Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr, business and technology services, and more -- was no accident. As loyal readers you know IBM has been talking about unified communications and collaboration for several years now. This is a natural extension of that conversation, and our leadership in this space. Gartner said recently that the distinction between unified communications (UC) and collaboration will disappear by 2013 (as reported by CIOL), but we know that outperforming organizations are already doing this today.
Social media may generate a lot of buzz, but if you look more deeply at that conversation, invariably there is a communications element. All that socializing may be great, but eventually you just want to talk to someone (or IM them, or video chat with them, or meet with them, or...). For all the power of these new social collaboration capabilities, we are at heart a social species which means we still crave live verbal and visual contact with others, not just their words or photos or (pre-recorded) videos. That's why the phone isn't going away anytime soon as a collaboration device (maybe as a wired desktop phone, but that's just replacing one form factor with another, the underlying capability is still the same).
Unified communications and collaboration, then, is about making sure that we include that verbal, visual contact as an integral component of the overall collaboration mix, because that's how people WANT to collaborate. That's why we continue to invest in Sametime - with three releases in the past 2 years alone (Sametime Unified Telephony, Sametime 8.5 and Sametime 8.5.1). And why we continue to push the integration of Sametime with not only the rest of our Lotus portfolio, but the broader IBM portfolio (like WebSphere Portal, or Cognos), business partner offerings (just read any of our recent Business Partner Tuesday posts that highlight just a small sliver of the over 400 partners we work with), and even competitors (because we live in a heterogenous world, despite the rip-and-replace strategies other vendors ask of you).
So when you see the words Social Business, or social collaboration, from IBM, know that Sametime, and Unified Communications, are absolutely critical and key to that strategy:
trust is the new competitive advantage - what better way to build trust than through real-time conversations (whether IM, voice, video or e-meetings?)
brands are experienced through their people - and unified communications is critical for not just call centers, but for enabling all your employees to be real-time brand ambassadors to your customers
outperforming organizations are doing this today by making people, not devices or documents, central to the collaboration strategy. And we have plenty of real examples where unified communications have resulted in profitable transformations
We're excited about this announcement. Hopefully this explains why we think you should be too. But what do you think? How well integrated today are social collaboration and unified communications in your enterprise? What will it take to get there? Why aren't we there yet?
It's not that it's been a quiet week (or three) since the last news roundup - it's that we've been busy around here. You know, getting ready for Hallowe'en and all. But our press corps has been very hard at work as always, with some new press coverage we wanted to share with you.
"IBM is still a massive player in the desktop space," [Polycom Vice President of Partner Marketing Mark] Roberts said. “The reality is IBM still owns 50 percent of the desktop, and we see it as an opportunity to extend our position in the marketplace and help our channel partners extend their reach as well". – Phone Plus: Polycom, IBM Collaborate on UC Solution for Lotus Sametime
In Chile, Channel News published two articles on Lotus Notes 8.5.2 and Lotus Sametime following a local Lotus Knows event.
IBM Lotus Notes, in its latest version 8.5.2, can be the platform for converging technologies and mail, office tools, secure corporate instant messaging and encrypted audio and video conferencing and others. These tools converge in a work environment forming a "single collaborative desktop."
In Italy, Office Automation published an article on the benefits of enterprises adopting UC solutions (Italy, Office Automation, 09.10, UC Solutions, why should companies adopt them?)
And there's been a lot of news for the rest of our portfolio. Look for some additional recaps on our Lotus Knows blog coming soon.
One day late on the Business Partner Tuesday post...
How's this for a too-familiar dialog on an average business day?
“Hello? Who just joined?” "Tom, there’s too much noise on your line, can you
please mute your phone?” “Sorry I’m late. I couldn’t find the passcode for
For those of us who spend all day on conference calls (like me), and as more and more of us work remotely this will be the same for many of you, it would be nice to imagine
a meeting where you could see every participant by name, mute or un-mute
participants’ lines from your desktop, and have the meeting dial out to your
participants. Thankfully, that capability is available today with PGi audio conferencing
integration to Lotus Sametime.
PGi has been integrating with IBM for some time. Their first
TCSPI adaptor was launched in January 2004. Just this January they released their latest conferencing integration to
Sametime 8.5, including Mute/Un-mute, Dial Out, Lock Conference, End Conference and Disconnect User. By
embedding one-click access into web, video and instant messaging collaboration
applications, users can escalate the meeting experience while everyone is
engaged - facilitating quicker decision making and improved productivity.
PGi Global Collaboration
Services provides a wide range of collaboration services. You can learn more at www.pgi.com/gcs.
On October 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm (Eastern Daylight Time), please join Clifford Spinac, Technical Specialist for Lotus SUT, in a free
Webcast to learn about the deployment
options for SUT and examine the architecture behind it. Hear from an insider
about the critical points where SUT integrates with your infrastructure and why
you need to be aware of them. Cliff also reviews basic call flows and what you
need to know about how SUT manages your telephone calls.
It was an excellent week in the news for IBM Unified Communications and Collaboration. The IBM Communications team has been hard at work getting us in front of a lot of industry press, and these articles are nice confirmations that what we want to talk about, people want to hear about.
“What we do today is help customers build a long-term strategy and help them understand what the differences are in an on-premises private cloud vs. the public cloud," [Korkki] said. “We’re not pushing one technology over another. We start from the customers’ point of view and look at their needs, and then determine what the solutions are. Then we help them understand best deployment option." --Billingworld
"We have a history of building unified communications environments for customers and now what we see happening is the cloud taking off," Jeri Korkki, IBM Global Service Category Leader for ICS Cloud Services told InternetNews.com. -- VoIPPlanet.com
Network World published an article on the rise of social computing due to enterprise-ready offerings in three key areas: sharing workspaces, social platforms and unified communications applications. IBM is the only vendor highlighted with offerings in each of the three categories.
"Social-computing products are transitioning from individual applications, such as blogs, wikis, or document sharing, to integrated social-computing suites encompassing and integrating many different tools."
"I think the touch screen device in mobile tablet form may end up replacing a lot of those fixed IP phones that do everything … [because] touch screen interfaces are certainly much more intuitive and easier than a phone keyboard," Del Pizzo said.
Recently IBM announced Singapore Airlines' use of Sametime, IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, Traveler, Connections and Quickr to empower its geographically distributed workforce. That announcement received quite a bit of coverage, including some of the quotes you see below:
IBM won a bid over Microsoft, after a comprehensive total cost of ownership study evaluated by Singapore Airlines. The airline company chose IBM Lotus software for a more effective collaboration and communication among its geographically diffused man power despite mobility. – Silicon Angle “What's interesting in the Singapore Airline announcement, is the specific focus on building out on their existing platform to enhance their collaboration, knowledge management and mobility support. In addition, Singapore Airlines has the confidence to stand with their vendor and announce their decision to maximize their investment in IBM/Lotus software.”- Leadership By Numbers
And we continue to see coverage from our IBM Customer Experience Suite announcement 2 weeks ago, from the media and blogger community around the globe. Of note, the Financial Times highlighted the IBM Customer Experience Suite in Monday Sep 27th's issue of the paper:
If your call centre attracts more brick bats then praise, maybe its time to switch to web-based customer support. IBM’s Customer Experience Suite encourages customers to help themselves to information using blogs, chat forums, video, social networking tools and, increasingly, mobile devices. --Financial Times