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IBM Buys WebDialogs To Bolster Its Unified Communications Middleware Client

The acquisition will add Web conferencing as a software-as-a-service offering within the Lotus Sametime UC client.
IBM on Wednesday said it had acquired Web-conferencing company WebDialogs, and introduced a new version of its unified communications client Sametime. In addition, IBM said it would launch in beta early next year middleware for integrating multiple PBX telephone systems.

Mike Rhodin, Lotus' general manager for IBM, made the announcements at the VoiceCon conference in San Francisco.

With the acquisition of WebDialogs, based in Billerica, Mass., IBM plans to add Web conferencing as a software-as-a-service offering within the Lotus Sametime UC client. The new combined service will be called Lotus Sametime Unyte. Unyte was the name of the WebDialogs service. "We found that they have the easiest system to use in the market," Rhodin said. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

On Sametime, Rhodin introduced Sametime 8 and said there would be three versions, entry, standard, and advanced. Lotus Notes customers were get the upgrade at no additional charge.

IBM plans to add in the future three new capabilities, which would be available in the advanced version. First is the ability to create a permanent chat room that people can move in and out of. Second, communities of employees can be set up around, for example, a particular expertise, so a person can ask a question to the community and get answers from people they may not know. The response thread could then be archived as part of a FAQ.

The third function adds screen sharing to Sametime, so a person could actually see the desktop of the person with whom they're communicating.

Rhodin also introduced a new middleware product called Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony, which is scheduled to go to beta early next year, with general availability expected in the middle of the year.

The new product, developed in partnership with Siemens, is meant to integrate PBX systems from multiple vendors, making it possible to leverage software-based unified communications across the system.

"This is a natural spot for middleware to exist," Rhodin said. "Middleware is all about integrating systems in a common application."

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