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Commentary

A Peek at the Future from Lotus Labs

The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.

By now, every blogger here has weighed in on Lotusphere—so why shouldn’t I throw in my two cents?

Seriously, I thought this year’s event was a real watershed for the company, which seems to have turned a corner on collaboration and unified communications last year, and is now primed to lead the way with innovative technologies and thought leadership for 2007. Here's what impressed me.

Of the products announced at the show, and soon-to-be-ready-for-prime-time, my favorite is Lotus Connections, which is basically taking social software into the enterprise. Comprised of five components--Activities, Communities, Dogear, Profiles and Blogs--Connections helps companies help employees collect and exchange information through professional networks and connects users to like-minded co-workers in so-called “communities.”

•    Profiles lets users search for people by name, expertise or keyword. Search results provide basic contact information and reporting structure details (the latter is so key in today’s virtual, global workplace), as well as links to the blogs, communities, activities and bookmarks associated with that person.

•    Dogear lets users to tag and share bookmarks, to help them share their most useful resources across the enterprise.

•    With Communities, users can work together with colleagues who share common interests or work objectives, making social and work-related connections that could prove useful immediately, or over time.

•    Activities gives users a Web-based dashboard for managing tasks with their colleagues, letting them organize, share and collaborate on all files, chats, email and Web links associated with a given project.

•    Blogs, of course, lets employees blog, and includes advanced search capabilities.

Connections is currently in pre-beta with about a dozen companies; it’s expected to be GA later this year.

Lotus also gave is a glimpse into some pretty cool technologies in development at IBM Research. Not all of it will end up in products, but some of it is pretty cool—and it gives us a good look at where the company is placing its bets for the future of collaboration. Some examples:

•    Cattail: Person-Centric File Sharing, to easily allow people to share files, with APIs for exploiting data and metadata, and integration with Sametime, Notes and Windows. The main value that I see: sharing and gathering feedback on files, like PowerPoint decks, while ensuring that viewers are seeing only the most recent version, thanks to the URL pointers.

•    PASTA, which promises to integrate rich presence from a variety of sources, including GPS and other location-based indicators, RFID tags, biosensors, and so on. This is where presence is headed—it’s time for vendors to start focusing on how companies will gather, massage and distribute it without and without the enterprise.

•    Leveraging Unstructured Information in Collaboration. Today’s, it’s almost impossible to successfully manage unstructured data—but so much of a company’s critical knowledge is unstructured. IBM’s LanguageWare promises to open up hidden information, letting people use it in innovative ways.