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...
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.
#ucoms As you are hopefully aware, we made many enhancements in Sametime 8.5.2 that help you collaborate more effectively and easily with colleagues outside your firewall. Sametime 8.5.2 browser-based meetings with audio
and video can help you build deeper relationships with customers and business partners, eliminate
expensive monthly fees from hosted meeting services, and reduce the need for audio conferencing, voicemail, and even travel. If those weren't reason enough to buy now, here's one more.
For a limited time, the commercial IBM Passport Advantage® Relationship
Suggested Volume Prices (RSVP) and Passport Advantage Express® Suggested Retail Price (SRP) for
selected eligible new IBM Sametime Standard
for Extranet Processor Value Unit and Sametime Advanced Extranet Processor Value
Unit products have been reduced by 75%. This means it's now more cost-effective than ever to experience rich online collaboration with customers, partners, vendors and more.
Orders must be received by IBM on or after August 2, 2011 but no later than December 31, 2011. This discount is available worldwide except in Japan.
***UPDATED 2011-08-12*** For a list of eligible products, and additional details, restrictions, applicability, and all the standard legal boilerplate fine-print, please refer to the specific links provided below:
On behalf of the entire Sametime team, I am pleased to announce that Sametime 8.5 will be available for download on December 22nd. Happy Holidays!
IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5
represents the next generation of unified communications and collaboration
software. As you can see, we've packed in quite a bit into this release:
A new online meeting experience that is integrated into the IBM Lotus Sametime Connect
client. Join a meeting with a single click. Easily invite others by dragging
their names from the contact list. Accept meeting invitations with a single
click. Upload meeting materials via simple drag and drop.
New zero-download, browser-based chat and meeting clients that extend
the desktop experience to wherever the user is working.
A new standards-based audio and video infrastructure that enables more seamless interoperability
with third party audio and video conferencing systems.
New audio and video codecs that provide higher quality native voice and
video services for a more compelling collaborative experience out-of-the-box.
New Web 2.0 APIs that let developers embed Sametime capabilities into Web sites
and applications so users switch context less.
A new, browser-based Apple iPhone chat client, support for the Blackberry
Storm, and an improved mobile client for Microsoft® Windows® Mobile devices.
New social views that make it easier to find the people you collaborate
with the most.
Deeper integration with Microsoft and Lotus products
A new System Console that centralizes infrastructure configuration, deployment,
management, and policy management for all Sametime services.
We'll be exploring all of these capabilities in the new year... but Sametime 8.5 is really about simplicity. Simplicity promotes adoption and adoption creates return on investment. Ask yourself these questions: How often do you loose the first ten minutes of a meeting providing instructions on how to log into the web conference? Have you invested in video conferencing systems that sit unused because no one knows they're there or how to use them? Do you want to deliver unified communications services into the applications your employees already use? Do you have a mix of communication and collaboration systems that are difficult to use, isolated and underutilized? If so, Sametime 8.5's unified user experience and open integration can help make UC simple for users, leverage those existing investments and drive real business value.
For years, Lotus Notes has included a basic version of Sametime. It provides simple presence and text chat within the Notes / Domino environment. For online meetings, voice, video, file transfers, screen captures, mobile clients, browser clients, the gateway for public IM federation, etc, etc, etc, users needed a license to Sametime Standard or Advanced. Yet, for some reason, we never had an easy upgrade path in place. Now, we do.
Buried in the Sametime 8.5 Announcement Letter are these new part numbers:
Lotus Sametime Standard Extension from Sametime Limited Entitlement (D0CCALL) (D0CC9LL)
Lotus Sametime Advanced Extension from Sametime Limited Entitlement (D0CCBLL)
They let Notes users 'extend' their Notes licenses with Sametime Standard or Advanced capabilities at a discounted price. While the part numbers are in the Sametime 8.5 Announcement, they
can be used for Sametime Standard 8.0.x or Advanced 8.0.x as well. (Just to be clear, these are just for Notes users and you can only extend the number of Notes licenses you have on active maintenance. For users without Notes, you need a regular Standard or Advanced license.)
But, there you go Notes customers, upgrade to Sametime Standard or Advanced today!
* December 16, 2009 update: Corrected Standard Extension part number.
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.
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.
This week's Business Partner Tuesday is a day late, but if you saw our earlier post today, you'de know why :-)
Would you like to connect instantly with other members of the Lotus Community? Perhaps your favorite blogger? A presenter you saw at Lotusphere? A Lotus Business Partner? Or even an IBMer? Well the people running BleedYellow.com are helping make this a reality. Here's an easy how-to guide to set yourself up. I've already done it, so you can now connect with me via Sametime (say hi!).
BleedYellow is a public Lotus Connections site, run by IBM Business Partner Lotus911 (now GROUP). So the first thing you need to do, is go there and register. (the Register link is at the bottom left corner, as shown below):
Once you have an ID and PW on BleedYellow, you next go into your Lotus Sametime client, and add an additional community, allowing you to connect to both your company's Sametime server to chat with your coworkers, and the BleedYellow Sametime server to chat with people from all over the world (but you already knew that Sametime client can connect to multiple communities, didn't you...)
In Sametime: - Choose File - Manage Server Communities from the top menu. - Click Add New Server Community - On the Log In Tab, add the username that you registered at BleedYellow.com, and your password. * Note: Some people have told me that they use the email address they registered on BleedYellow with, not their username.
On the Server tab, enter im.bleedyellow.com as the Host Server, and 1533 as the Server community port.
Then click OK at the bottom. Now the last thing you have to do is add a group so you can see the people to chat with. Click on the New icon, and choose New Group:
Select Search for a public group (1), select the bleedyellow community (2), search for the group yellowbleeders, select it (4), and click OK.
Thanks for all the positive feedback on the Sametime 8.5 Meetings demo! It seems I've tapped some latent demand. Yes, we will be making these available on IBM.com as soon we clear the posting requirements. In the meantime, IBM'ers can download them from our internal Connections site (see my Files area). When the rest of them are done, we'll bundle them up and post a collection publicly.
Savings Bank, one of Finanz Informatik's many customers, just unveiled a brand new service they call Online Chat that allows customers to communicate with their financial advisors. The service is based on the IBM Sametime Web Chat client and it integrates with the bank's Interactive Service Platform developed by Finanz Informatik. This new service is yet another branch of the multi-channel customer service infrastructure Savings Bank has set up for its customers. It all runs out of the call center. It's easy to use, and it's already proving to be very effective. Take a look:
Don't worry if you don't speak German.
Congratulations to our friends at Finanz Informatik. This is a great implementation and a mighty fine example of what IBM Sametime can do. Congratulations also to Savings Bank. I'm sure their customers will be very pleased with the new service.
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!
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.
In case you missed the tweeting a few weeks ago, you should know that a new cloud offering for Unified Communications was launched by IBM (it's us) on April 16th. Under the name "IBM SmartCloud Unified Communications Dedicated", this offering delivers a complete communications suite from a private cloud. This solution is built on enterprise-grade software components, such as: feature rich telephony, instant messaging and presence from IBM Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony, unified messaging from IBM, video integration, and more... A wide variety of communication devices can be made available with softphones, deskphones, and of course, support for smartphones and tablets.
This offering is designed to facilitate the transition to cloud-based telephony, and provides support for flexible deployment models (IBM data centers, or managed on customer premises). This offering is the result of an extended partnership between IBM Collaboration Services (Sametime software) and IBM Global Technology Services (ex: networking and managed services), aimed at delivering a best-of-breed and complete UC solution.
For more information, here is the official IBM announcement (www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?htmlfid=897/ENUS613-002&infotype=AN&subtype=CA). You can expect more news around this new offering over the next few months.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me, or anyone in the Sametime product management team.