On 22 January 2007, during the annual Lotusphere conference, IBM announced Lotus Connections, an integrated and extensible set of social-software services tailored for business environments. Connections includes five components:
Lotus Connections is expected to be available during 1H07. It will be licensed on a per user or CPU basis. Detailed pricing information is not available.
With Connections, IBM has entered the battle for the enterprise-ready social-software market. IBM’s early entrance into this market puts it in a good position to capitalize on the interest in flexible Web 2.0-oriented community models. Given IBM's vulnerable position in the e-mail and calendaring market, Connections could provide it with an opportunity to shift from traditional, e-mail-centered collaboration and communication to new social-software-based community models, which would enable it to appeal to users outside its traditional installed base.
IBM made the right decision when it decoupled Lotus Connections from other Domino or WebSphere infrastructure (apart from an application server which is required as a runtime container). Connections can interoperate and add value to Domino, WebSphere Portal or Microsoft SharePoint environments without significant infrastructure duplication or integration efforts. Integration efforts should also benefit from the prevalence of lightweight representational state transfer (REST) design.
The inclusion of social bookmarks and tagging in the initial release represents another smart design decision. These social software applications have a high "value-to-effort" ratio, as is evidenced by the popularity (and value) of consumer space equivalents. Through 2008, these capabilities will give IBM a significant competitive edge over mainstream competitors that still lack them.
Although Connections will serve as a strong baseline for social software, IBM faces several challenges, most notably in:
Social software in general — and social bookmarks and tagging in particular — represent the next evolutionary stage for portal, collaboration and content management environments.
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