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Though the Lotus ecosystem is not as prevalent in enterprises as that of Office/SharePoint, Lotus and LotusLive Connections have advantages over SharePoint, says Koplowitz. These advantages include being built on open standards and being a dedicated platform that is not dependent on the larger Lotus platform, the way that SharePoint depends on Office, he says.
"IBM is taking a much more modular approach with Lotus Connections that will allow the company to update more quickly and aggressively than Microsoft, which has taken a broad integrated suite approach," says Koplowitz.
For Microsoft Outlook customers who want to use Lotus Connections, there's a plug-in to integrate Outlook mail activity with Connections services.
Cisco has set its sights on SharePoint, Lotus Connectrions and Google with Quad, Cisco's aggressive venture into social networking and collaboration.
The Web-based Quad, named after a quad on a college campus, will set itself apart from Microsoft by integrating its unified communications tools like VoIP, video and WebEx Connect presence tools into a social networking site locked together with enterprise-level policy and security controls. Cisco plans a summer release.
A demo of Cisco Quad at this month's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston.
Quad's interface is constructed around a main customizable landing page (My View), individual profile pages (My Profiles) and Communities pages where groups within a company can collaborate. On the right side of the page lies access to your calendar, as well as Cisco's real-time communications tools such as voice, IM and video conferencing. It's a tightly-integrated Web-based platform that can be accessed on any Internet-based PC outfitted with a camera and a microphone. No client software is required.
Quad looks easy to use for anyone who's ever used Facebook, and like Lotus Connections, Quad is built on open architecture, so it integrates with other systems like Salesforce.com, Oracle, Exhange and SharePoint itself.
Though Quad is a newbie to the social networking space, Forrester's Koplowitz sees potential in Cisco's real-time collaboration tools like Web conferencing, IM and video for the enterprise.
"As the line between communications and collaboration blurs, Cisco could use their position of strength in communications to create some very compelling collaboration tools," he says.