Sep 28, 2006 (02:09 PM EDT)
IBM Collab Chief: Stay Tuned For Better Mac Support

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

IBM Software will soon offer a better Macintosh client for Notes and is working on delivering Mac fidelity for that collaboration client.

The current beta for the Notes client will be on par featurewise with the Notes Windows client, said Mike Rhodin, general manager of IBM's Workplace, Portal and Collaboration group, aka the IBM/Lotus group.

"We have millions of Notes seats on the Mac now, and some very large customers are active in the beta and are very vocal about that," Rhodin said in an interview with CRN. "The Mac is a resurgent platform."

"When you see [the new Notes client], we've integrated the Macintosh more cleanly. All the dialogue boxes are Mac dialogue boxes; all the scroll bars are Mac scroll bars," he added.

The next Notes 7.02 maintenance release, due out soon, will add iNotes support for Mac computers, Rhodin said. iNotes is a lightweight Web client.

The news comes at a time when many consumers are opting for slick new Apple Computer machines over what they perceive as security-risk-prone Wintel boxes, observers said. Apple Macs continue to have strong presence in publishing, animation, and advertising shops, and in art departments within otherwise PC-centric businesses.

At its annual Lotusphere show last year, IBM Software announced support for the Mac OS X platform, and it continues to add perks for Mac users.

In the interview, Rhodin also addressed other lingering questions. With the SameTime 7.5 release earlier this month, IBM is turning up the volume on its unified communications strategy, he said.

IBM/Lotus stole a lead with enterprise-class, real-time communications several years ago with its early SameTime offering, but the company appeared to back off on the effort for a few years. Some partners said it "went black" sparking questions about how important SameTime was to the company.

Meanwhile, Microsoft picked up the baton and has been touting its own unified communications game plan to anyone who will listen.

Rhodin said IBM continued to invest in SameTime, and that the new SameTime release brings together instant messaging, VoIP and Web conferencing in a package that's palatable to corporations that discourage the use of consumer-oriented, real-time collaboration software because of the security risks.

IBM is now ready to re-attack the market because it's now ready to embrace unified communications, according to Rhodin.

"We're at the dawn of the real-time era. It's not simply about chatting. It's not just about communications, even though we have complete VoIP capabilities and have partnerships with the four major video providers for video conferencing. There are open APIs, an open programming model, to open up innovation across IBM and its partner community," he said.

"With the SameTime gateway open framework, we allow plug-ins and we allow interoperability between the public and private networks," Rhodin added.

That means SameTime users can interact with users on the America Online, Yahoo and Google instant-messaging networks in a way that most companies would find acceptable. Conspicuous by its absence in SameTime is the Microsoft IM universe, though there's no technical impediment to interoperability. "This will be driven by consumer demand," Rhodin said.

As for Microsoft's unified communications pledges, Rhodin said IBM has shipped its offerings, whereas Microsoft has "just announced."

"Their dates are not clear, and I have a lot more up my sleeve before they deliver," he said.

IBM, like Microsoft, is betting that partners will embed its real-time communications and collaboration technology into their own wares. In fact, some partners say the way to eliminate communications bottlenecks -- think phone tag -- is to minimize human input. The way to do that is to move to automated Web services to automate human interaction.

For example, Siemens wants to embed the IBM components into its current and next-generation communications wares, said Mark Straton, senior vice president of enterprise networks marketing at Siemens.

"The single biggest pain point for you and me is that we're human middleware. You have to find the number, dial it and, if you misdial it, you start again. You get an e-mail but don't know the person's phone number. What you really need to do is use Web services and SOA architectures to minimize that," Straton said.

Siemens also partners with Microsoft on its Live Communications Server (LCS) offering.