Ted-Schadler  by Ted Schadler

Pal Henry Dewing and I heard yesterday from IBM's Rob Ingram about Lotus Sametime 8.5, the real-time collaboration product available on December 22. Lotus Sametime is the client/server product that first made enterprise instant messaging a global possibility back in 1998.

This dot release is IBM's first major overhaul of its real-time messaging product in three years. (My take is that IBM kept the 8.x version number to align it with the current Notes/Domino version.) For those firms that understand the power of real-time collaboration tools — the ability to get an immediate answer, hold a virtual ad hoc meeting, or ping someone without bothering them with a phone call — this product is an important upgrade.

Why? Because it's got the core elements of click-to-conference — not just instant messaging and presence — baked into it. And for ad hoc collaboration, click-to-conference is a much richer and easier thing to do than loading up separate applications for instant messaging, video conferencing, and Web conferencing.

I think of click-to-conference is "the ability to have an ad hoc meeting supported with rich media whenever you are online." It includes these elements:

  • One click to send out an invitation via instant messaging.
  • One click to join a meeting.
  • A permanent meeting room for projects or teams.
  • Communication via text, audio, and video conferencing.
  • Access from any online computer or smartphone.

Sametime 8.5 has most of that (all but complete smartphone support, though that is promised) and of course a whole lot more. Zero-download client for guests, IT-controlled access to trusted partners, follow-the-speaker video conferencing, integration with other video conferencing solutions, pesistent meeting rooms and documents, and so on). For details, see the IBM Lotus press release.

In case you haven't noticed, IBM Lotus not only didn't go away, it's here with a vengeance. LotusLive.com claims 18 million users, the 8.5 release of Notes/Domino is a winner in storage savings, Lotus Connections beats other social software platforms on many dimensions, and Sametime's pushing the envelope on real-time collaboration at global scale.

You can probably tell that I think this is a good product for companies whose employees must work together across a distributed and often global organization. But there are other click-to-conference products:

Microsoft offers click-to-conference in its Microsoft Office Communications product, as does Cisco with Cisco WebEx Connect, Citrix with GoToMeeting, and Adobe with Adobe Connect Pro (and at least 20 other vendors that aren't catalogued here, but who should feel free to comment on this post to let people know).

Love to hear about your click-to-conference experiences and real-time collaboration stories. Please share.