IBM Amps Up Collaboration Platform, Invites Parters to PlayAt this year’s annual Lotusphere conference, IBM (news, site) announced the arrival of LotusLive Labs. The new development combines Big Blue's hosted Lotus services with the resources of IBM Research, yielding fertile ground for business-driven collaboration ideas for the cloud.

An Ecosystem of Ideas 

"The general idea is to provide an accelerated research and development pipeline," said Lotus chief technology officer Charlie Hill of LotusLive Labs. 

Some immediately available features in that pipeline include: 

  •  Slide Library: A collaborative way to build and share presentations
  • Collaborative Recorded Meetings: A service that records and transcribes meeting presentations and audio/video for searching and tagging
  • Event Maps: An interactive way to visualize and interact with conference schedules
  • Composer: The ability to create LotusLive mashups through the combination of LotusLive services

"The way it works is that, if an organisation wants to expose Labs to their staff, users can plug the working software into the fabric of LotusLive as an extension," explained Hill. "This is useful as it tightens the relationship between end users and researchers, and allows customers to directly provide feedback. So it's like the Firefox plug-ins, but there is more of ecosystem in bringing the ideas to life in a real business context."

As for the lab's future innovations, a new web-based document editor currently called Project Concord is slated for a Q2 release. The editor will enable the creation and sharing of documents, presentations and spreadsheets.

LotusLive Welcomes IBM Partners

Presumably to ensure the LotusLive platform gets the action it needs, IBM also announced the extension of the core collaboration services. Starting in the second half of 2010, the company says APIs for LotusLive services will be available to any IBM business partner. 

In fact, there are already three LotusLive Design Partners scheduled to bring their solutions to market in Q2:

  • Silanis Technology: electronic signature process management integrated with LotusLive Files and Activities
  • Skype: voice and video calling integrated with LotusLive Contacts
  • Prolifiq: one to one branded sales messaging platform integrated with LotusLive Contacts and Files

"Lotus knows that helping customers work with people outside and inside their companies, especially in the context of a business process, is important," said Sean Poulley, vice president, IBM Cloud Collaboration. "By making it easy for partners to weave cloud-based social networking, collaboration and communication tools into their applications, customers will gain powerful new ways to solve business problems."

Several other tidbits followed these two nifty announcements, including the skinny on the coming version of LotusLive Notes (e-mail, calendar, contact management and instant messaging capabilities). 

The Crowded Skies

There's no denying that these additions and enhancements will help to secure IBM's place in the collaborative cloud computing niche,  but whether or not it will be enough remains to be seen. 

Let's not forget other giants like Microsoft and their recent US$ 250 million joint cloud computing deal with HP, or Google Apps for the enterprise, or startup Zoho, which tirelessly kicked out solution after solution in 2009.  

Will IBM's new lab cook up what it takes to compete? Check out LotusLive Labs for more info.