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IBM's Lotus Sametime Heads for Linux, Voice Messaging

Lotus On Linux Offerings Expand

  • August 14, 2006
  • By Jacqueline Emigh

On Monday at LinuxWorld, IBM announced the first Linux desktop client for its Lotus Sametime instant messaging (IM) and collaboration platform, along with plans to add voice messaging to Sametime.

Linux will make its initial appearance later this summer in Sametime 7.5, a revamped desktop client environment, first unveiled earlier this year, which will also support Windows and Macintosh.

"This version [of the Sametime client] also makes tremendous leaps forward in the ease of use of the user interface," maintained Jeff Smith, IBM's VP for open source and Linux middleware, in a pre-briefing for LinuxPlanet.

The Mac client for Sametime, included as part of an earlier announcement made at Lotusphere, is still slated to ship in early 2007, an IBM spokesperson said later. But the Linux announcement is brand new at LinuxWorld.

IBM also intends to add Linux server-side support to Sametime some time in 2007, according to Smith.

The Linux IM software will be targeted at both IBM's existing installed base and newer businesses, such as Web-based start-ups, that haven't yet settled on an IM platform.

Going forward, all Lotus desktop products will support the Windows/Linux/Macintosh "trimvarate," according to the IBM exec.

Meanwhile, releases of the Lotus Sametime server component will operate on Windows and Linux, along with IBM AIX and Sun Solaris.

Right now, IBM plans for supporting Linux distributions include only Novell SuSE Linux and Red Hat. Asianux, however, might be a possibility for the future, he hinted.

"I don't have anything about Asianux to announce today," Smith told LinuxPlanet. "[But] we are getting increasingly interested in Asianux, because of its presence in Asia."

Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-released Sametime 7.5 desktop product actually represents a collaborative effort among Lotus and some other IBM divisions.

The other divisions contributed Sametime's new voice messaging features, along with "capabilities around communities and file transfers," for instance, said Smith.

Monday's launch of Sametime for Linux comes just more than a month after IBM's announcement of the first Linux client for Lotus Notes, a product that become available in late July.

"Sametime is independent of Notes. It can be used by itself," according to Smith.

But Sametime 7.5 is being created within the crossplatform, open source Eclipse development environment.

Smith told LinuxPlanet that Eclipse is promoting quick development of the 7.5 edition as well as easy integration -- both with Lotus Notes and with a number of other Java-enabled "rich client" technologies, collectively referred to by IBM as "Web 2.0."

As examples of other Web 2.0 technologies, he cited AJAX, along with software products from both Adobe and Google.

Smith conceded that the installed base of Linux desktops isn't all that large today. Still, he predicts a number of different uses of Sametime for Linux.

"The role of instant collaboration is becoming more and more important, from the biggest corporations all the way to the very smallest customer," he contended.

Beyond newer Web-based businesses, IBM's targets on the Linux side will include enterprise and SMB (small and medium sized) environments traditionally served by mainframe-based "dumb terminal" applications.

Examples of these kinds of "fixed function" applications include ATM machines, public kiosks, and solutions used by bank tellers and retail stores.

"We also think developers will find it attractive to be able to leverage the collection of [Web 2.0] technologies. All kinds of applications might be developed," said Smith.

As examples of possible future applications, he pointed to mobile solutions for platforms such as Palm and Blackberry, "with the right service packs," and even for Windows Mobile, if that environment can produce "the right kind of Java support."

IBM spokespeople have previously articulated plans to build further integration capabilities into the next major release of Notes, codenamed Hannover.

Smith told LinuxPlanet that, in its initial release, the Sametime 7.5 Linux client will work with NLD (Novell Linux Desktop) 9 and Red Hat Desktop 4.

But IBM also plans to support future editions of desktop software from both distributors.

For instance, SLED (SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop) 10 support will be added within the next couple of months, according to Smith.

Smith doesn't foresee a whole lot of competition to Sametime in the IM business arena. "There's IM software such as Microsoft Messenger--and from AOL and Yahoo--that can be downloaded for free by consumers," he said.

"Microsoft, though, would also like to push [IM] out to businesses," the IBM VP admitted.

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