Saturday, June 27, 2009

IBM goes 3D - once again

Much has been said on this blog about IBM and it's involvement in virtual worlds, most notably (but not exclusively) Second Life. Yet I somehow completely missed this announcement about Sametime 3D. Sametime is IBM Lotus' instant messaging and unified communications software, and Sametime 3D is a virtual world addition to the existing package.

Via this IBM Lotus Sametime blog announcement I found this youtube clip, which shows Sametime 3D. I haven't found confirmation yet, but it looks like Sametime 3D is an implementation of OpenSim! In itself that's not such a big surprise, given that IBM has been involved in OpenSim - unofficially for the most part - for a long time.

Sametime 3D doesn't look too fancy, it's just OpenSim. But, I don't think this has to be an issue, as business use has other requirements than recreational use.

From what I've seen in the youtube clip, it's quite easy to initiate a new 3D meeting from the Lotus Sametime client, but it doesn't show how the meeting itself is started. It's obvious that the regular Second Life client is used to facilitate the meeting, so I assume you need to have that installed separately, but I can't confirm that at the moment. It could be that IBM has simply integrated a lightweight SL client in the Sametime software, but that seems unlikely; I would have expected to see some sort of IBM branding in the virtual world client, but the window just says 'Second Life'. So, is a separate Second Life client started as soon as you enter the Sametime 3D meeting? Do you have to login or does it use your Sametime credentials? What if you have SL installed, already? These things I am curious about, but details are scarce. More information is welcome!

Sametime 3D comes with a few prepared rooms: a boardroom, a collaboration space and a theatre/auditorium, and also features some business ready tools like a flipchart that can be used for note taking; the contents can be exported in "a word processor compatible format" as the video says. All in all I'd say it looks useful, and I would definitely like to give it a try once.

Linden Labs offers a standalone Second Life simulator behind the firewall, an effort that (as far as I know) is still in beta but also included IBM participation. This "SL behind the firewall" is, as far as I know, really just that: a standalone SL environment. Sametime 3D is different: the 3D part is a business oriented addition to a larger set of collaboration tools. I wonder what approach will work best in the real world! Frankly, I assume IBM Lotus Sametime 3D will find easier inroads in the corporate world, as it doesn't have the negative connotations that Second Life has for some, and because it's 'just' an addition to an existing package. It could be implemented without much fanfare or discussion, as a part of a regular upgrade cycle. Too bad we don't run Sametime at my employer!

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