A month ago I posted an entry about the major players likely to make a go of it in the unified web collaboration market. I was a bit dismissive of IBM at the time, since they seem to keep moving in many directions at once, with no clear solution strategy for their customers. Today we have an update from Big Blue, announcing (but not releasing) their collaboration platform based on Lotus Sametime. The article stated that there are 15 million users of Lotus Sametime, and I have to admit I was surprised. I have never run across anybody using the application in my entire professional career in marketing, technology, and web conferencing. I have no reason to doubt the statement... I'd just be interested in the demographics reason I have never crossed paths with the product.
The lynchpin in all the announcements I've seen about collaboration products is instant messaging, and this announcement is no different. But IBM does say that the new release will include "a new web conferencing interface designed with tools and technologies to make it easier to create and more effectively manage online meetings." I'm looking forward to seeing that.
I have to believe that if web conferencing becomes central enough to the IBM strategy, they'll just end up buying a dedicated web conferencing vendor. It turns out that the technology is detailed enough to benefit from a track record of serious widespread enterprise use and multiple revisions. And buying web conferencing companies is all the rage these days, what with Placeware, Raindance, and Centra all having been gobbled up by larger entities. Could WebEx be a target? They are attractive from the name value equity and their large corporate customer list alone. Not that I've heard even a whispered rumor, mind you... This is sheer speculation on my part.
As I've said many times before, unified web collaboration is hot, web conferencing is a vital part of the puzzle, and we haven't seen the last of major partnership, product release, and acquisition announcements. Stay tuned.