The news around Lotus Sametime 7.5 has trickled out for months. The newly released version has 150 new features packed into it, but some of these new capabilities are more interesting than others. Many new features simply bring Sametime up to par with other enterprise, and even consumer, clients. (Including AIM Triton, which, for all its drawbacks—ridiculous emoticons, annoying ads, the co-opting of your Web browser, ugh!—is a pretty stellar IM client.)
Now that Sametime 7.5 is finally here, let’s look at some of its best new features.
For instance, the selective “do not disturb” adjustments, and the business-card-like info (see figure, below), both bring Sametime in line with other, more complete enterprise IM clients, adding capabilities that I think are required in an enterprise-grade communications tool. Same goes for the new, more advanced click-to-call capabilities. And of course, Office integration is a must-have if Lotus is to compete for new users with Microsoft.
That said, there are some nifty new features that are, at least collectively, specific to Sametime. The integration with other IM systems is hardly unique, and it’s increasingly important—but how very nice that it’s free! I also love the persistent message threads, so chat histories are saved on a user’s PC. Archiving IM conversations is one thing (and don’t get me wrong—it’s critical for certain compliance needs), but from an end user’s POV I don’t want to have to go digging around for the history of my last chat session. It’s really nice to have it available whenever I launch a chat with someone, so I can remember where we left things off.
Also very nice is the fact that the software will automatically change a user’s status when he or she enters a Web conference. Obviously, this is only one instance in which a person might be busy or unavailable on IM, but any help users can get in updating their presence status is clearly welcome—and because IM and conferencing are so well integrated the Sametime system can do this easily.
I’m personally less enamored of the spell-check, but I know plenty of people who would be very distressed if their Office spell check suddenly disappeared, and who will be thrilled with having those capabilities built into IM (goodness knows, plenty of us can use the help).
Finally, one very cool feature is the physical location awareness, which lets users know where a contact is at a given moment. This info will be increasingly important in a growing virtual workplace, and as users tap into Sametime on mobile devices. It’s not fully mature yet—it would require automatic, GPS-enhanced data updates for that, and watch out for the privacy issues that will come with it. But it’s really good step in enabling a truly complete and integrated presence portfolio.
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