IBM is releasing version 8 of its Sametime UC platform next week, as well as Sametime Entry, which is designed to deliver basic IM and presence capabilities to Outlook users. New features in Sametime Standard (formerly just “Sametime”) include expanded platform support for IBM Lotus Domino 8 server and server support for VMWare environments; extended support for mobile workers, including the Nokia E-series, Sony Ericsson, and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 devices; new point-to-point video capabilities for Macintosh users; and integration with Microsoft Office 2007.
Meanwhile, Sametime Advanced is on track for delivery in Q1 2008 (it adds persistent chat, broadcast and instant-share capabilities), and Sametime Unified Telephony is still due mid 2008. That product is expected to include telephony plug-ins for the Sametime application, click-to-call and click-to-conferencing, aggregated IM, phone and calendar presence, incoming call control, an embedded softphone, and connectivity to legacy PBX and SIP-based systems. Unified messaging and voicemail capabilities are due in release 2. What’s nice about SUT it that it will truly support mixed-vendor environments, so that companies with, say, Cisco and Avaya gear already installed can use IBM’s middleware layer (and that’s essentially what SUT delivers on top of—or, underneath—the Sametime client) to give employees a single, consistent communications environment, regardless of what specific telephony and network products they have in place.
I love the Sametime products, because they’re mature, elegant and easy to use. I also think that in the past 12 months, IBM has done a terrific job of detailing and delivering new products that build on the company’s history in the collaboration arena, and that IBM is in the best position to add social networking and other Web 2.0 tools to its software in a way that meets both end user and IT staffer needs. But I still think the company should yell a little louder about its success in the marketplace.
On a recent analyst call, for instance, Bruce Morse, VP, Unified Communications & Collaboration Software, highlighted three customer case studies that actually talked about customers using a true unified communications application—not just a subset of UC features, such as VoIP or conferencing or IM. That’s unusual—none of the other vendors who’ve showcased customer stories in the past few months have said the same. Here they are, boiled down:
Those are the kinds of case studies other companies want to see in order to justify their own UC deployments. I’m excited to hear more of them in 2008.