If you haven't been reading the latest technology trade rags, IBM just launched a new application called Lotus Connections, a social networking product. We've known about it for awhile (it's been called the Ventura project), but it's finally seeing the light of day. We're excited to add another company to the field of players.


Who are the Players Now? 


1. Microsoft Sharepoint: Taking a very file system centric view to collaboration, but building a lot of similar functionality for 2007. However, it's a behemoth of an application with a lot of moving pieces and integration code. Not much room for innovation.


2. SuiteTwo: A project with Intel, SpikeSource and a host of other companies providing best-of-breed point solutions. Deep features because of all the individual products, but very difficult to connect the applications in any meaningful way. What Sam here at Jive calls a " Franken-suite".


3. Lotus Connections: It's similar to Clearspace in a lot of respects, but it leans on the social networking over the content creation. Connections has some tools we don't have yet like tasks and social bookmarking. And like the other products, "Connections" is a result of bringing together formerly disconnected tools (described in the Reuters article as " stitched together") as opposed to being built from the ground up as a single product on one architecture.


How does Clearspace fit in?


The unified architecture is one of the most important elements. It has been built from the ground up with this type of collaboration in mind, so it's easy to use, customize, integrate, grow and to support deep collaboration. Other big differentiators include:


  • An "external edition" for customers and partners (coming soon)

  • Deep discussion and blogging functionality

  • User-friendly wiki documents

  • Flexible workflow

  • Transporting content from one tool to another

  • Plug-in architecture

  • Available source code

  • Real-time editing of documents

  • Reward system

  • Integrated real-time messaging


That's just a quick cursory list. But still, this Connections the closest product we've seen to what Clearspace is doing and it's a fantastic validation of our approach. It may be competitive in some engagements, but IBM will be a lot more focused on MSFT than Jive. And the more important point is that this means there's hundreds of millions of marketing dollars behind the space -- a large wave whose wake we are more than happy to ride. Given the differentiators above, I'm thrilled about the move.


First to Market!


One of the other nice differentiators is that all these products have made big announcements, but nothing has hit the market yet...and probably won't for awhile. In fact, you'll be able to download the Clearspace beta this week.


IBM is a big customers of ours, and have become good friends along the way. They were even an advisory contributor to the development of Clearspace. They've got some really smart people and this is a very promising move on their part. I couldn't be happier to add them to the list.