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IBM will add social networking tools for business

If you like MySpace, you may have some interest in what Lotus has on tap for corporate customers.

IBM wants to help businesses unlock the potential of social networking through a new set of collaboration and communication tools to become available later this year.

Lotus Connections will offer software that provides workers with blogs, communities, activities, bookmarking, or what it calls "dogearing," and profiles, which will allow like-minded workers to find each other easily and share ideas and projects. IBM revealed the software at its annual user event, Lotusphere 2007, in Orlando this week.

The tools will do no less than "transform organizations," in part by allowing companies to find data buried away in organizations and share it the way it wants to, according to Jeff Schick, vice president of social computing software for IBM's Lotus, its messaging and collaboration software.

Schick said Connections will help companies share data, increase camaraderie among workers that never meet while it injects a company or division with energy because workers will be sharing and acting on ideas quickly.

IBM also unveiled a second communication and collaboration product it calls Quickr, a browser-based content and collaboration product. It will have connectors that integrate with desktop applications, built-in wikis and team blogs and will also be used with other software like Microsoft's Exchange Server. A personal edition will be available soon to Lotus Notes and Domino customers under maintenance at no cost.

Quickr's built-in wiki capabilities will allow users to add to and edit documents together. And its document and application templates will allow users to share ideas as they collaborate and track those ideas through the collaborative process.

IT executives viewed the tool with interest. Pekka Rantanen, an IT administrator at UPM Kymmene, a large paper company in Kuusankoski, Finland, said that a product like Quickr would be appealing to his company where it would help 30,000 workers communicate more easily.

Brendon McCaulley, a systems developer at Verizon's Dallas facilities, agreed. "It would really help with workflow," he said. "We have thousands of in-house applications that are Domino-based and Quickr could replace those applications. The applications Verizon uses cannot always be shared between workers or across divisions, but Quickr would make those applications available to everyone that used it."

Melissa Swymer and Anthony Bellamy, both IT administrators with MetLife Inc. in its Tampa office, were intrigued with Quickr as well. MetLife has Notes 6.5, so it would first have to update to Notes 8.0, which should be out later this year.

"With it being able to use Sametime [IBM collaborative software] and having features like communicating with BlackBerrys, [Quickr] would be very helpful," Swymer said. She added that many MetLife executives and other workers use BlackBerrys and travel constantly. The ability to have richer communication capabilities would be well received.

IBM's Michael Rhodin, who is general manager of Lotus Software, said Notes 8.0 and Domino 8.0 will be released this year.

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