Lotusphere 2009 kicked off this morning with the Blue Man Group and Dan Akroyd setting the stage for a flurry of announcements around Notes, Sametime, Quickr, Connections, and Websphere Portal. Most of the announcements were evolutionary enhancements to products announced in the last two years with two notable exceptions - the launch of LotusLive and new options for BlackBerry users.
LotusLive (currently in Beta) serves a few different purposes. Initially it is being positioned as a way to bridge public services such as LinkedIn, Skype, and Salesforce with Lotus Notes/Domino. Using LotusLive I could view LinkedIn information about my contacts directly within Notes, for example. Notes thus takes a big step toward becoming a social networking dashboard as I described yesterday. LotusLive is also being positioned to compete directly with Windows Office Live as well as Cisco WebEx Connections as it evolves.
On the mobile side, Lotus, with Research in Motion, demonstrated the ability for BlackBerry users to work with Symphony documents, participate in Sametime web conferences, and access Connections & Quickr applications. These announcements, along with Cisco's recently announced support for iPhone, demonstrate a growing need to provide smartphone users with an increased set of collaboration capabilities.
IBM Lotus also demonstrated some nice new features of Sametime Unified Telephony, allowing for on-the-fly audio conferences that can easily escalate into web or even video conferences, with click-and-drag capabilities to add new participants from your Sametime buddy list. I thought one novel feature was the ability to create persistent web conferences associated with Lotus Connections communities or Quickr workgroups. A demo of new Connections features showed that it is starting to look an awful lot like Facebook, which I assume isn't by accident.
Amidst the flurry of features, technical demos, and smashing drums what I didn't see was a focus on hard ROI associated with these new products and services, I assume we'll get that later. And, while there were a few off-the-cuff references to Microsoft (and even Jive), there wasn't a strong discussion of the value proposition Lotus is offering to those currently taking a hard look at Microsoft's Exchange/SharePoint/OCS suite. Again, hopefully we'll get that as the event moves forward, and maybe even a little more Blue Man Group?
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