Over the past couple years in my role as Product Manager for Rich Media in Sametime , I’ve been excited about the great new video capabilities we were introducing in Sametime 9 and the business value the continuous presence experience could bring to our customers. However, I must confess that I was less than enthusiastic about using it myself. Certainly not the endorsement you would expect from the Product Manager – but hear me out.
Like many people, I don’t particularly like being on video. Maybe it’s due to feeling self-conscious or maybe it’s just a generational thing. Face it, I’m not only over the hill – but I’ve made a good start down the other side! However, sometimes in life you’ve got to do things you’re not comfortable doing – and as Product Manager for Rich Media, this was one of those times.
I started using our new video platform as soon as it was ready – okay, even before it was ready. In the beginning, the main purpose was testing. We would initiate a video call, wave at each other, ask the proverbial question “can you hear me?”, and hang up shortly thereafter. We were still falling back to telephone calls and dialing into an IBM conference bridge for most of our discussions.
As we got into the beta stage, within our Product Management team, we started using it more frequently for real conversations. The discussion might be as adhoc as “Are you seeing this behaviour in the Sametime 9 client?” – but instead of simply IM’ing or making a Sametime Unified Telephony call, we actually initiated an AV call. With the Sametime 9 Connect client, it’s a single click to escalate a group chat into a multi-way video call.
It wasn’t long before we were using Sametime 9 Meetings with AV for our regular team meetings. I would typically undock my video window to move it to my second monitor, allowing me to maximize the shared content pane on my laptop screen (perhaps another generational thing...). As a team that’s distributed across the US and Canada, we don’t “see” each other regularly. With video, the experience became more personal - we had a chance to see each other’s workspaces, we learned who talked with their hands, and we were able to quickly see when someone was in agreement or possibly confused. Most importantly, our interactions became more engaged.
Like many people in other organizations, IBMers are guilty of multi-tasking. When talking on the phone – or participating in an audio conference call – it’s common to try to respond to that urgent email or polish up that slide deck needed by the end of day. It takes resolve to ignore everything else – and truly focus on the current topic and conversation. I found continuous presence video can quickly have a big impact on reducing the multi-tasking and improving the focus in the discussion and result in more effective meetings. There are a couple reasons - first by seeing the speaker and other participants, one’s attention is drawn to the meeting and visual cues and body language become part of the communication. The other reason? Well when one is on video, one is less likely to multi-task as others on the call will detect the lack of attention. In some ways, video is an added dose of resolve!
John Del Pizzo and I started using Sametime 9 video for our weekly 1x1. The more we used video, the more natural it became – and the experience was much like we were sitting across the table from each other.
We even conducted our Sametime 9 Analyst Briefings on the Sametime 9 Beta platform in IBM Greenhouse using video. The new browser support allowed analysts to join from their Mac or Windows machines as guests. After installing the Sametime plug-in, the analysts were able to participate in the continuous video experience with John, Kramer, and me. With Sametime 9, Mac users can choose to use Apple Safari or Mozilla Firefox – and Windows users can choose between Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, or Google Chrome. The new browser support combined with the new built-in extranet model also enables Sametime customers to include external participants in video meetings.
The new video capabilities in Sametime 9 are something you need to experience! I’ve provided personal examples of the value it can bring, but don’t take my word for it. A recent survey by Polycom and Wainhouse is worth reviewing (find it here: http://tinyurl.com/nfbceve). A couple key points to note from this survey. First, the biggest value most respondents attributed to video was the ability to improve productivity and to increase the impact of discussions. Second, the survey showed that those users that use video conferencing are likely to use it on a daily or weekly basis.
Clearly, my experience supports that second point. Once someone begins to use video, even a skeptical user like me, the value of the experience quickly overcomes the hesitation. Eventually, even I stopped glancing at the preview window – and put my focus on the other video participants – and the “real face to face communication”.
Let me share a few observations from my personal experience with Sametime 9 video in IBM.
Don’t underestimate the experience of interacting “face to face” with your globally distributed organization!
Initiating a Sametime AV call is easy and quick! You will not have time to swap that heavy metal t-shirt you’re wearing for that light blue button down shirt hanging in your closet, so think ahead.
You never know which executive or customer may be on the other end of that “video call” invitation you accept (… in your role as Product Manager for Rich Media)… dress appropriately.
If you are someone who likes to pace while you are on a call, you may want to invest in a wide angled camera for your laptop.
It’s amazing how many people wear baseball caps at their desks!
I will be following up in the next few weeks with some additional entries about the Rich Media capabilities in Sametime 9, so please check back. If you’re curious about what’s coming on our mobile platforms to support these new video capabilities – see Marc Pagnier’s post earlier this week which shared a video with some sneak previews – and stay tuned on this blog for more details coming soon!
We have great news for you today. Over the week-end, we enhanced IBM SmartCloud for Social Business with a brand new capability: audio-video calling.
First, let’s start with a quick reminder on what you were able to experience in the IBM cloud over the past few month. SmartCloud users have been able to chat with other users, transfer files between each other, and – my personal favorite – they can dynamically select and share a portion of their desktop. So, if I want to quickly show you any part of my desktop, I can do it in one click. And I could perform all of these actions just using a browser or a mobile device.
With this latest update, we are now adding one-to-one audio-video calling to instant messaging. How this works is very simple. Let’s imagine that you and I are starting a chat (of course, with a very polite “hi…”). You will now see two new buttons in your chat window: one to start an audio-video call, and one to start an audio-only call. After you click on the video button, I can accept the request, and both of us can see each other in a quality video call.
And if you - or I - would like to skip the camera – trust me there are many times when I am not ready for it – then we can just talk to each other. From computer to computer. Simple. For that, we both just need a browser.
The mobile client (iOS or Android) will soon be available in your favorite app. store. We will let you know in this blog when it is available for download.
So is this a big deal ?
Oh... Yes… We believe that the use of video is critical to collaboration and social. There are many situations where a quick talk, or engaging in a video conversation, is much more efficient that a text-based chat. Every time you need to show something real (as opposed to virtual…), a whiteboard, a paper-based drawing, or a piece of high-tech equipment, a video is worth a thousand words (and even less when you have to type all these words on your tiny phone).
And there are so many other ways to leverage quality video when you need to better communicate with someone else: for an interview, or for a 1-1 meeting with your new boss... Seeing someone is key to establishing trust, or not…
So, if you want to get a first-hand experience at this new video experience, here is a video interview that was recently recorded.
There is one more SmartCloud enhancement that I will cover in my next blog. For now, go ahead and jump on the cloud to try this new browser-based video experience.
I'm happy to announce that the new IBM Sametime Widgets for IBM Connections are available for download from the IBM Collaboration Solutions Catalog in Greenhouse. As you know this is a new way for us to distribute new capabilities and we're very excited about these particular offerings.
As promised, we're delivering three widgets: Video Chat, Chat Rooms and Meeting Rooms. These widgets are designed to work in the context of Connections Communities. They bring Sametime audio and video, persistent chat rooms and meeting rooms to community members right from the IBM Connections user interface.
This is one more step on our quest to offer close integration with IBM Connections. As you all know we started with Sametime Meetings integration with Connections Files on IBM SmartCloud and on mobile clients. We also provide integration with Connections Profiles on Sametime mobile clients. Well, this is yet another milestone in our roadmap. There's more to come in the future.
In the meantime, check the widgets out, let us know what you think and don't hesitate to ping us if you run into any issues with them. The nice thing about distributing through the Solutions Catalog is that we can update them as often as needed.
It has been just over a month since we released Sametime 9, and we thought it would be good to reflect on what is resonating the best with our customers. For this post, I will focus on the new user experience, and provide a few teasers of what Sametime has to offer...
First, I have to say that our IBM Design team went to great lengths to provide a simplified user experience that takes advantage of the latest design innovations in the mobile space. This resulted in a modern interface that is also very consistent across the rich clients, the browser and the mobile applications. This is valuable considering that not many people are tied to a single device nowadays.
Beyond the overall new look and feel, a visual enhancement that may catch your eye is how your personal information is now being displayed succinctly at the top of the contact list.
This is an implicit reminder of how you look like to others, so you can keep this information more closely up to date. And allow your colleagues to more effectively communicate (or not) with you . It is also nice not to get more friendly reminders that your status still stays that you are "at lunch" when starting a presentation to your board... No more excuse, no menus to navigate, just type over the status or change your location...
Your communication apps. are now accessible - with one click - from the left navigator pane of your contact list.
So you can quickly switch to your meetings, or other built-in social capabilities. And it is not just for Sametime capabilities: partner (ex: voice mail) or custom business applications can easily be added to the navigator, thanks to the extensibility that is characteristic of the Sametime eclipse platform. And you can even rearrange the layout through drag and drop. The added bonus: there is more real estate for your content in the left pane...
Instant messaging is also a more powerful experience with context sensitive actions surfaced so I can quickly start group chats, meetings, instant desktop shares, screen captures, and more ... with just one click.
And if someone has an urgent message to me, alerts with the number of notifications (in red) will remind me of this communication.
There is so much control in meetings...
Change your presence, record the meeting, change permissions, create and view reports, .... It's hard to believe that so much is also available from the browser. It's about control and convenience.
Another nice touch in a meeting is the ability to use thumbnails to skip slides in a presentation (or pages in a document) beyond what is being shared.
So you can quickly jump to the right content, and not waste time.
Undoubtedly, the Sametime 9 interface is a radical change and has been getting rave reviews. But what will matter the most are all these little changes (and more) that make the difference in the day-to-day usage of your communication tools. Enjoy...
As we are moving into the fourth quarter of the year, we will have more news to share on Sametime 9... Today, I am sharing a teaser of some of the mobile capabilities that will soon allow you to take advantage of the new Sametime 9 infrastructure that we shipped on September 20th. Come back soon to this site to find out exactly when this will be available in your favorite app. store.
Here is Luis Benitez's recording that he posted on youtube today, and specifically the sequence that starts at 02:44.
Great news! The new IBM® Serviceability Tool for Sametime® (version 8.5.2.x) is now available for download. V8.5.2.x is the first release of this tool and it will be enhanced by IBM Sametime Development with periodic updates. The IBM Serviceability Tool consists of the following four components.
Sametime Configuration Validator
The Sametime Configuration Validator is a plug-in designed to load the entire configuration information for your Sametime environment, and validate the configuration. It examines configuration settings to verify consistency, and then produces a Configuration Report.
Sametime Support Bot
The Sametime Support Bot plug-in provides a Sametime bot within a Sametime Community. Sametime users can contact the Sametime bot and receive automated responses that can be used for troubleshooting or for reporting a Sametime issue. Data is collected, and then administrators can generate a PDF report of the collected data to submit to IBM Support.
Sametime Community Monitoring
The Sametime Community Monitoring plug-in provides a view for monitoring the Sametime Community Statistics generated. Updates can be configured from 5 secs to 10 minutes. The administrator can monitor multiple Sametime Community Servers and see totals, such as current log-ins for example, across all servers and for individual servers. This component is for live monitoring only.
Sametime Deployment Planner
The Sametime Deployment Planner is a plug-in that helps to expose what the new 8.5.x product servers and features have to offer. Additionally, it reveals tips and tricks for successfully planning and deploying the environment.
Supported Sametime Versions
This tool is designed for use with all Sametime components versions 8.5 and later as well as Sametime Community 8.0, and later.
How to get it
Access the downloads from the IBM Serviceability Tool for Sametime Community on IBM Greenhouse:
Feedback such as information on problems, enhancement requests, and usability concerns can be posted to the IBM Serviceability Tool for Sametime community on IBM Greenhouse. IBM reviews all feedback but makes no commitments regarding changes to the product or its documentation.
On behalf of the entire IBM Unified Communication & Collaboration organization, I am pleased to introduce IBM Sametime 8.5.2 (Standard, Advanced and SUT). This is an absolutely jam packed release that continues to deliver against our "UC2" vision. More importantly, this release helps position Sametime as a critical part of your Social Business Platform... making it possible to find, reach and collaborate with your colleagues, customers and partners when and how it is most beneficial.
Here's an overview of whats new in this release:
New in Audio / Video (av):
Native and third-party audio and video in browser-based online meetings. Sametime 8.5 made it easy to access meetings through the Connect client or through a browser. Now we've added audio video to the browser experience. You can leverage our own native capabilities (up to 20 people with switched video) or use third party audio, video conferencing and telepresence systems for more robust capabilities. Either way, all it takes is a a small browser plug-in (2 mb).
Standard-based Network Address Translation (NAT) support and Firewall traversal for Audio & Video. This bit of infrastructure makes it easy to use av with customers, partners and anyone outside of your network.
Bandwidth management tools to protect the network by managing audio and video usage. Protect your mission critical applications by controlling how much bandwidth is allocated to av overall, how much is allocated to different classes of users and locations and politely prevent av sessions from connecting if there is inadequate bandwidth.
Support for dual Telephone Conferencing Service Provider Interface (TCSPI) adapters. This enables simultaneous integration with multiple audio and video conferencing systems and gives users the choice of which makes the most sense for them.
New in Mobility:
A new Sametime client for Google Android devices Text to speech reads you incoming messages, embed images in Sametime chats, update your location through the phone's GPS and initiate SUT calls.
A new Sametime Meeting client for Research In Motion (RIM) Blackberry devices
New in Telephony:
SUT Lite Client License An easy way to get started down the UC path, this new license turns your Sametime Connect client into a simple softphone. It requires minimal configuration (a SIP trunk from the Sametime Media Manager) to make or receive voice or video calls.
Intelligent number recognizers within the chat window. Sametime will now recognize phone numbers sent to you via instant message and let you click on them to dial.
Active speaker notification in ad-hoc conference calls
SUT Dialer on Google Android devices Change your preferred SUT device and initiate SUT calls while mobile. Call recipients will see your unified number and other Sametime users will see when you are on the phone.
New in Sametime Advanced
An infrastructure refresh that improves both scalability and deployability. Sametime Advanced helps you interact with communities of users (for example, your IBM Connections Communities) in real time. A great way to tap into experts you don't personally know right when you need them.
Every so often I am asked why I blog about changes in the Sametime Product Management team. I think it's important that our customers and partners know who we are and how to connect with us. IBM is a big organization and finding the right people isn't always as straightforward as it could be. So, with that, let me introduce you to some new folks and outline new roles for a few of the old hands.
Julie Reed takes over as Product Manager for
Sametime Unified Telephony and all voice and video in
Sametime Standard / Advanced. Julie joins us from the IBM Mid Market organization where she ran the Smart Business offering team. Previously, she spent six years as Director of Development for Genesys Conferencing and held leadership positions in the development organizations of Nitix and Lotus Foundations. You can reach her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at keegers.
Marc Pagnier is our new Offering Manager for Sametime Cloud Solutions. He'll be
responsible for accelerating Sametime's progression into the cloud -
LotusLive, IBM GTS and Partner-hosted private clouds, and service
providers. Marc also came to us from the Smart Business team where he drove appliance solutions around IBM Cognos and hybrid (on-premises / cloud) collaboration solutions. Before that, he had been a Senior Product Manager on the IBM Connections and Quickr teams. Marc's email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his Twitter ID is mpagnier.
Many of you already know Marlon Machado, a frequent blogger here over the last two years. In January, Marlon took over as Product Manager for the core Sametime portfolio - Entry Standard and Advanced. In addition to his PM role, he'll still have a hand in driving UC capabilities into other IBM offerings (Websphere BPM, Cognos, etc) and Smarter Planet solutions. His contact information is: email@example.com and clevershutter on Twitter.
Lisa Harris joined us 7 months ago as the Sametime Offering Manager. She owns Sametime pricing, packaging, licensing and most of the "business end" of product management for the on-premises portfolio. A note to IBM sellers...if you think you could sell that much more Sametime if we only changed the [fill in the blank]... talk to Lisa. :-) Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org and you can follow her on Twitter at ld_harris.
David Marshak, the former Product Manager for both Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony (ie: the guy who knows where all the bodies are really buried), is now our Senior Strategist. While the rest of us are focused on driving the next release, David will be mapping out where we need to be in 3-5 years and how to get there. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: davidmarshak.
You may have noticed that I left Rob Ingram off the roster. Rob has taken on a new challenge for IBM, driving mobile strategy for all of Lotus/ICS. Given the importance of mobility to unified communications, we still talk to him on a practically daily basis... so he's not far.
Please welcome Julie and Marc and don't hesitate to contact any of us.
Today we posted an important update to our Sametime Mobile for Android app on the Google Play Store (here).
This new client is designed for both, phones, and tablets. It has an updated user interface, improvements to chat history management, and better management of multiple communities.
Chris Reckling has posted some nice screenshots on his blog (here). Check it out and, if you have an Android device, feel free to upgrade to this new release and let us know what you think--as long as it can be expressed as a five-star rating on the Play Store (wink, wink...)
The IBM Serviceability Tool for Sametime is definitely getting better with age. The team has been busy refining it and giving it more muscle to make Sametime 9 deployments easier, faster and predictable. This week we're adding some cool new features I'm sure you all are going to like. Here's the list:
Diagnostic analysis and viewing with custom filtering,
New features on the Configuration Validation module:
LDAP server integration, which allows direct validation with the LDAP server if available,
A Policy Summary view coming directly from the Systems Console and the Meetings Server if available.
A new Configuration Compare view that allows you to see two different server configurations side by side so you can spot the differences,
Two new features on the Network Mapping and Monitoring module:
The ability to trace-route your workspace network via a graphical map showing the servers added to the network and the addressable nodes in between relative to the tool,
The ability to monitor server status via ping if the servers are available.
Built-in help (I know… we needed this one).
Here's a few screenshots for your viewing pleasure.
This is the new Configuration Compare view:
This is what the new Diagnostic Viewer looks like:
I mentioned the diagnostic analysis view includes custom filters. Here's what that looks like:
And, finally, here's the new network scan feature:
As always, remember the IBM Serviceability Tool for Sametime is available for download from the Solutions Catalog in Greenhouse. You can get it here.
Hopefully, you had the opportunity to attend yesterday's Social Business launch event. (If not, here's a link to the replay.) The theme was "Reinvent work with the right platform for social business" and I am hoping that you are now - even more - convinced of the value of the IBM social business portfolio. Sure, I would not have minded if the presentations had been sprinkled with a few more mentions of our products, e.g. "Sametime 9 is awesome" or "Sametime 9 is the most important Sametime release EVER" , etc. ... but as we heard yesterday, it's not about the technology, it is about how we use it to transform our business...
My personal favorite from this event was a presentation by Lane Masterson from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, who provided a very compelling testimony about the usage of Sametime in his organization. Sametime has become "the primary method of informal communication". Weekly face-to-face meetings that used to be costly and irregularly attended are now becoming more collaborative and efficient, through the use of video conferencing. All of this while reducing travel costs and productivity losses. "Every desktop has become a virtual video-conferencing room". Impressive presentation altogether.
And if you have time, don't forget to check some great stats on their site (random fun fact: it is impressive that over 73% of Australian households have broadband access)
What we also saw yesterday are great demo snippets from Suzanne Livingston and Luis Benitez who provided a small window into what a perfect "day in the life" could be. That is for someone lucky enough to be using the IBM product portfolio, where one can seamlessly flow from social collaboration to ... social communications (with Sametime 9). After these teasers, John Del Pizzo followed up with a breakout session ("Drive business results with the new Sametime 9") on the modern state of communications (Simple, Smart, Social, Secure) and a deeper dive on the new capabilities of Sametime 9.
So what is new in Sametime 9 ?
1. A modern look-and-feel ... with a new interface that reflects the latest mobile design techniques, and an end-to-end user experience that optimizes the flow of how users communicate.
Does not it make sense to enjoy a great experience.... consistent across the devices that you use throughout the day ?
2. A best-of-breed HD audio-video experience with continuous presence for more engaging collaboration.
Don't you think that the breakout session from this morning with John's video was much more compelling than a set of narrated slides ?
3. A very simple all-inclusive offering structure with a built-in extranet model (see previous posts from William Kulju).
No other server, client or device access licenses, and no hidden pre-requisites for other client or server components. It is that simple.
4. And ... even tighter integration into the industry's leading enterprise social networking platform (IBM Connections).
And so much more ...
If you are dying to learn more about Sametime 9... don't worry... we are planning to dive more deeply into some key areas over the next few weeks in this blog. Just to whet your appetite, here are a few teasers. Julie Reed will provide more specifics on the video capabilities and start peeling back the onion (layers) to better understand video standards. Marlon Machado will provide more information on new product features that really matter. We will also shine the light on two critical areas ... mobile and social ... where we want to demonstrate our market leadership.
So come back.. often...
As we are getting hold of these video vignettes of today's event, we will share the links as comments to this blog post.
Our good friends at Plantronics announced this week the latest release of their Spokes software family of products. Spokes provides the foundation that makes Plantronics headsets operate as seamless extensions of UC clients such as IBM Sametime Connect.
Plantronics uses Spokes as the basis for the Plantronics Plug-in for IBM Sametime, which enables integration of a large chunk of the product family with Sametime Connect. When you have the plug-in installed, you can initiate and pick up calls, put them on hold, mute, unmute and end both, Sametime Voice Chat sessions and Sametime Unified Telephony calls directly from the headset. If the device you're using happens to be a Calisto speaker phone, you can also dial directly from the device if you're calling phone number from your SUT unified number.
The Plantronics Plug-in for IBM Sametime on Windows has been around for a while. I personally use it every day because it makes my Savi W730 and my Voyager Pro UC V2 work they way they're supposed to with my Sametime 8.5.2 IFR 1 environment on Windows 7. Well, this week's announcement brings lots of good news for Sametime users because, after an intensive Beta program with a bunch of folks inside IBM, the plug-in is now available for Mac OS X as well.
Congratulations to the Plantronics team and, as always, thanks for their continued support for the Sametime platform.
You can find out more about all the cool features available with Spokes and the Plantronics Plug-in for IBM Sametime here.
Those of you who saw it at Lotusphere 2012 have been waiting for it. Those of you who didn't will be as excited to know that the IBM Sametime Video Chat Widget for IBM Connections just came out today. It's a technology preview that provides an easy way to associate a Sametime audio/video session with an IBM Connections Community page.
The plug-in is available on developerWorks. You can find it here.