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IBM integrates telephony, desktop collaboration tools

Highlighting the convergence of telephony and desktop collaboration, IBM will integrate Avaya audio-based communication into its e-mail, Web conferencing and IM offerings.

Highlighting the convergence of telephony and desktop collaboration, IBM said today that it will integrate Avaya audio-based communication into its enterprise e-mail, Web conferencing and IM offerings beginning later this year. Networking equipment vendor Avaya was spun off from Lucent Technologies Inc. in October 2000.

The integration of telephony capabilities from Avaya with IBM's enterprise collaboration products will allow certain Notes/Domino and Sametime users to instantly place a phone call to an IM or e-mail contact while remaining in their inbox or IM client. These users will also be able to select multiple names in order to "click-to-conference."

IBM will also be integrating audio conferencing provided by Avaya's Meeting Exchange teleconferencing server with Lotus Web Conferencing, giving participants in Web conferences a visual indication of who is speaking, as well as the abilities to dial out to new participants, mute lines and control volume.

"Rather than worrying about call-in numbers to a Web conference, now the meeting can call you," said Adam Gartenberg, offering manager for IBM's Real Time Collaboration Group. That, and being able to see who's speaking, "adds a lot of value to a meeting," he added.

David Ferris, president and senior analyst of Ferris Research, a research firm specializing in messaging and collaboration technologies, called the announcement "interesting because you have two major players--Lotus/IBM and Avaya--providing for tighter integration of voice with conventional computer-based collaboration. It's clearly the way things are going."

Click-to-call functionality and Web conferencing integration will first be offered to users of Lotus Sametime 7.0 in the fourth quarter, and then to users of Notes/Domino 7.0.1 in the first quarter of 2006. Integration with Workplace Collaboration Services and Notes 6.5.6 is also expected.

IBM customers who deploy Sametime 7.0 or Notes/Domino 7.0.1 would also deploy Avaya Meeting Exchange and a connector provided by Avaya into the IBM products.

The "click-to-call" and integrated audio capabilities are built on IBM's telephony service provider interface (TSPI). According to Gartenberg, Avaya is the first company to write to the TSPI, which will be released to market later this year. The interface is written for IBM solutions, but other vendors (which Gartenberg said he was not allowed to name at this time) are looking to integrate with it. The TSPI will allow telephony and audio providers to build off this framework, empowering application developers to layer new value over a rich set of communications services and capabilities using standard integration components and tools.

According to Gartenberg, IBM has not yet been decided whether these capabilities would be bundled into the cost of Sametime and Notes/Domino or carry an additional price. "We're not at the point of discussing final packaging," he said.

Built-in audio for Lotus Web Conferencing has also been available from Premiere Global Services, an IBM Business Partner, and that will continue, Gartenberg said, noting that the two offerings are similar. "What we're doing now is coming out with a service provider interface. But built-in integration is still offered."

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