IBM just announced and demoed new advanced group collaboration and enterprise telephony capabilities for SameTime here at its Lotusphere conference in Orlando. The two will be delivered as new SameTime releases, SameTime for Unified Telephony and SameTime for Advanced, due out later this year.
SameTime for Advanced extends the group collaboration capabilities of SameTime, adding persistent chat and screen sharing. SameTime for Unified Telephony will help reduce the cost of supporting and maintaining mixed PBX environments by providing a common interface to all real-time collaboration within the SameTime client. While this won’t enable users to access some advanced features specific to a given PBX, they will be able to access 80% of the core features that remain common across most PBXs, Bruce Morse, IBM Lotus’s vice president of unified communications, told me after the keynote.
More specifically, SameTime for Unified Telephony lets users see the presence status of a telephone user whether they're on an IP telephony system or an analog system. Incoming calls are announced through the sort of pop-up “toasts” that you would see in other softphones.
But SameTime for Unified Telephony is more than just placing calls from your desktop. As an avid IM user, it’s always annoyed me that I had to change my voicemail greeting by going through a long series of voice prompts on my phone or even to separate Web interface on my PC. Voice rules should change when my IM status changes. If my IM status says I’m in a meeting then in any sort of real unified communications platform the rules for processing incoming calls should change to being in a meeting. If I step away from my desk and my IM presence switches to away mode then that should have a similar effect on my phone system.
With SameTime for Unified Telephony you get just that sort of capability. Users are given a wizard engine that allows them to build find me-follow me rules for finding the best way to reach you based on system and status. These are in effect whether the individual is online or offline. A rule might say when “My status is set to ‘away’ then forward my calls to my cell.” Since status changes to offline are automatic, those calls will automatically be directed to your cell phone even if you forget to change your phone status.
Today, SameTime for Unified Telephony has been tested against several IP PBXs, including those from Avaya and Cisco, but it should work with any IP PBX conforming to SIP and other mainstream PBX standards. While those specifications will only give access to core capabilities on the switch, IBM may have the perfect opportunity to drink its own KoolAid. Use its own widget engine to create a widget for accessing advanced capabilities of each of these IP PBXs…an idea that Morse just loved.