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Lotus showcases future collaboration tools

IBM Lotus on Wednesday previewed its collaboration tools of the future, including offerings to help workers stay organized, ease calendar management and execute business processes.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- IBM Lotus on Wednesday offered a glimpse of its future collaboration strategy by demonstrating experimental new communication tools that it hopes will soon lead to big changes in the way that people work together.

The new technologies fall into the areas of activity management, large scale collaboration and visualization, and collaborative application development. Big Blue officials said some of the new software will be available in IBM's Lotus Workplace suite as soon as this year.

Mike Rhodin, IBM Lotus' vice president of development, collaboration and human interaction software, said one of the chief themes behind the new software is the concept of combining ad hoc communications like instant messaging with shared workspaces.

"We think a new wave of collaborative technology is about to emerge," Rhodin said.

The applications demonstrated included:

  • ActivityExplorer, a one-stop-shop for e-mail, instant messaging and shared workspaces, is the first of the new technologies expected to become available to the general public.

    ActivityExplorer allows co-workers to organize their online collaboration efforts into hierarchically structured document collections, or activity threads. Components of the file structure might include instant messages, files, folders, notes or screenshots.

    ActivityExplorer is expected to ship next quarter as part of Workplace 3.0, Rhodin said.

  • ReMail, the result of IBM's Reinventing E-mail project, provides tighter-than-usual integration between e-mail and calendaring functions. Users can automatically generate calendar entries simply by clicking highlighted text in e-mail messages.

    IBM also hopes the ReMail will help workers stay organized by offering graphical representations of e-mail threads.

    "ReMail is a comprehensive project that has been going on for awhile," Rhodin said. "Pieces of that are actually shipping in Notes 6.5 right now, including some of the automatic calendaring."

  • Jazz, a shared workplace environment for developers, is on the fast track for release from IBM Rational, Rhodin said.

    For more information

    Read our exclusive: Lotus Workplace: The next Notes?


    Learn about Lotus' new Workplace tools.

    A virtual shared workspace for developers, Jazz allows programmers to keep tabs on the progress being made by their co-workers. If necessary, developers can discuss their efforts and help with each other's work via file sharing, instant messaging and screenshots.

  • IBM also demonstrated the prototype of an unreleased collaboration tool currently known as Kontiki. Inspired by the free, open-content online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Kontiki is a Web site that allows users to create and reuse forms that describe and help people execute business processes.

    One of the speakers at IBM's press event yesterday, Thomas Malone, an MIT professor and the author of the The Future of Work, said that new collaboration technologies will lead to a substantial increase in individual freedom in business by providing employees with vast amounts of knowledge.

    "New information technologies … are reducing the costs of communication to such a low level that even huge numbers of people even in very large organizations can [now] make decisions for themselves instead of just following orders from above them in a hierarchy," Malone said.

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