Lotus is now offering beta test versions of its Sametime collaboration product, and will ship the product in 15 languages by the end of the year, company executives said yesterday.
Sametime allows users to chat via typed, real-time messages and meetings or to share documents. Sametime, originally said to be part of the release of Lotus Notes and Domino Release 5, will instead be available as a standalone application and server, but it can be integrated with those releases.
While the company will not announce price information for Sametime until it ships, executives of the company said that the pricing model will be similar to Notes or Domino: customers will purchase the Sametime server and pay for client access licenses for each user.
Lotus president and chief executive officer Jeff Papows said, during his keynote address this week at Comdex/Fall '98, that adding voice capabilities to collaborative tools was the next logical step.
The first release of the product, however, will only include a data server, said Paul Haverstock, general manager of Sametime products.
Haverstock was not willing to discuss when voice would be available on Sametime.
Anyone can download the beta trial from the Lotus Web site this week (http://www.lotus.com/sametime).
The beta is only available in North American English now, but by November 20 the Brazilian, Portuguese, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Korean and Spanish versions will be available.
All of those languages, plus Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish will ship by the end of the year, Lotus said.
The biggest barrier the Sametime products face, according to Haverstock, is the difficulty articulating the value of the product to potential customers.
One challenge Sametime may face will be the availability of similar, albeit less-sophisticated, programs, which are offered for free.
One such program is ICQ from Mirabilis, now owned by AOL. ICQ allows anyone on the Internet who has downloaded the program to send instant messages and participate in chat talks with other Internet users who have downloaded the program.