Lotus introduces corporate IM for wireless

The workplace instant messaging business got a new player on Monday as IBM's Lotus Development unveiled its new wireless application for cell phones, personal digital assistants, Pocket PCs and other handheld devices.

In an announcement at the Lotus Developers Conference 2001 in Las Vegas Monday, Lotus revealed its Sametime Everyplace 1.0 software, which is aimed at helping corporate workers improve communications while in the field.

The new product is based on IBM's existing Lotus real-time collaboration offering, Sametime, and adds expanded capabilities for security and other issues, while supporting open Internet standards, according to the company, an IBM subsidiary.

Sametime Everyplace will be offered for sale to corporate customers within 30 days. Pricing hasn't yet been announced.

A Lotus spokesman said the new offering differs from instant messaging programs from Yahoo and America Online by adding increased security and direct integration with other Lotus products, such as Lotus Notes. The added security in the application will attract corporate customers to buy it, said the spokesman.

"With Sametime Everyplace online awareness capabilities, employees can immediately determine whether their colleagues are online and choose the appropriate vehicle for instant communication -- whether on a mobile phone, PDA or PC," said Patricia Booth, director of unified communications at Lotus, in the statement. "While other companies are developing consumer-based wireless solutions, Lotus has delivered one of the first 'fit-for-business' wireless instant messaging solutions."

Alan Reiter, an analyst at Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, said the "concept makes a lot of sense, assuming that corporate concerns are met for high-enough levels of encryption and security."

"Corporate customers more and more are looking at the possibility of using instant messaging rather than e-mail because of its immediacy," Reiter said.

One early shortcoming of the first release of the new product is that while it will be able to display the names of co-workers who are available for instant messaging, it won't be able to show what kind of device they are using, he said. That means that co-workers won't be able to seamlessly send each other files online because they won't know if the recipient's wireless device is equipped to accept the files. The next step, Reiter said, is to add that capability is a future release.

"It's one more nice utility that adds to wireless," he said. "People are looking for killer apps."

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