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IBM Mobile Connections Now Free

You probably don’t know that IBM sells a social media and community building tool that competes with Socialtext and Jive and combines wikis, social streams, discussion forums and integrates with IBM’s Sametime for presence/IM communications. It is called Connections and today IBM announced that mobile versions of Connections are free to download. This is a good thing, because their pricing was driving me batty. The software that has more options than your father’s Oldsmobile, and trying to find the right place to learn about it on IBM’s Web site isn’t easy either. (Try starting here.)

The free mobile versions are available on the Android, iOS and Blackberry phones through the links on their respective app stores. They connect to either a Windows or Linux Connector server. But wait, there is more. There are also desktop versions.

If you want to get started with seeing what Connections is about and don’t want to do any downloads, you might want to try out the cloud version called LotusLive (it used to be called Lotus Connections). LotusLive Connections is $7.50 per user per month and you can get a 60-day free trial here. The cloud version doesn’t connect to the on-premises version, at least not yet.

In addition to the social features, IBM announced that it has beefed up the mobile versions with some bonus features, and of course they differ depending on the phone you are using:

  • Partial wipe for Apple iOS devices, This is new and allows an IT administrator to wipe only the company data from the device while preserving a worker’s personal data. There are many other MDM products that offer this feature, it is nice to see IBM promoting this too.
  • Click-to-call from Android OS device calendar. Available in beta now, Lotus Notes Traveler will allow IBM email users to call people listed in their calendar views with just one click.
  • Online meeting support for BlackBerry only, OSv6 is required for this client.

Traveler, by the way, is yet another IBM product. It is a mobile application that provides two-way, over-the-air synchronization of email and PIM data between Domino servers and select handhelds.

IBM is probably one of the biggest users of the product (GM is another). If you think back over the evolution of internal IBM communications tools you can see a pattern: Back in the early 1980s IBM was on PROFS, a mainframe-based email system that also had a shared calendar and documents repository. Then came Officevision, which was just a rebranding of PROFS for desktops and minicomputers: remember the OS/2 era? After that, they purchased Lotus Development and began to move onto Notes. Notes did apps really well, just as long as someone else wrote the apps. Now with the Internet and social media they have Connections and the ability to empower the enduser is greater than ever.

One of Connections niftiest features – and something borrowed from a few other communications tools – is the ability to see the organizational hierarchy of anyone you communicate with. For a company that is so buttoned-down as IBM, this is a boon. You can see if your boss’ boss shares the same direct reports as you do, or find someone else in the organization that deals with your customer who is based in a different country. Of course, you have to load your directory into the product to obtain this functionality.

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