The following is a transcript of an interview conducted by the Instant Messaging User Group with Carl Tyler, Instant Technologies Chief Technology Officer on September 8th 2003.

IMUserGroup:  Hello Carl, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. For those readers who are familiar with Instant Technologies, they might say that Instant Technologies was ahead of the curve, and that IBM is only now starting to catch up, what would you say to those readers?

Carl Tyler:  I'd say they're right. To be very honest, IBM actually did this long before anyone else when they introduced Sametime awareness into Lotus Notes 5.02b back in 1999. The problem was it was slow, actually it was very slow and really it was unusable. The basic integration gave them a check box against Microsoft, but in reality most customers never got it working. Some of this was because it was a Java client application, and other reasons were that it required specific configuration settings on the server. So when Instant Technologies was founded, we recognized that there was an opportunity there, but someone needed to execute it properly. That is why last year we introduced Instant TeamMessenger 1.0, which tightly integrated Lotus Sametime into Microsoft Outlook. We like to think we did it right <grins>.

IMUserGroup:  Why did you develop Instant TeamMessenger for Microsoft Outlook instead of Lotus Notes?

Carl Tyler:  There are two reasons we selected Microsoft Outlook as the first integration point for our TeamMessenger. First, from the outset, we firmly believed that eventually real-time communication and email clients would converge. You see the beginning of that convergence, or possibly transition, now. It was reasonable to anticipate that IBM would recognize this trend and tightly couple their IM platform with their messaging platform. So, we didn’t want to duplicate that effort. However, in a larger sense, and our primary reason for the coupling is that Microsoft Outlook is the dominant email client and Lotus Sametime is the dominant corporate IM platform. In terms of both market share and technology, we have integrated the two ‘best of breed’ applications in their respective segments. As we are witnessing, these technologies are natural complements, and our approach enables organizations to leverage their preferred architectures and two ‘best of class’ products.

IMUserGroup:  Earlier this year, IBM awarded your company with the Rising Star Beacon award, why was that?

Carl Tyler I think to understand why we won that award, you need to understand why IBM gives the award, IBM says "The Rising Star category recognizes an IBM PartnerWorld Business Partner who is demonstrably breaking new ground in Lotus technologies", which is exactly what we are doing, from integrating Lotus Sametime into Microsoft technologies, or our family of Instant Messaging "bots", Instant Technologies is continually demonstrating a leadership in the Instant Messaging market, and don't forget it's not only IBM that recognized us with an award, earlier this year we were also presented with a readers choice award from e-pro magazine, which is extremely gratifying as it was our users that voted for our solution.

IMUserGroup:  Can you tell us why you believe Lotus integrating Instant Messaging into Notes 6.5 is important?

Carl Tyler:  Well at Instant we have always had a firm belief that over time Instant Messaging and presence is going to become more and more integrated within people’s day-to-day work and lives. The ability to be scanning an e-mail or reading document, and immediately seeing if someone is available to chat with, is more than just cool, it's actually very useful. We first introduced this last year with Instant TeamMessenger for Microsoft Outlook, people who use the product immediately understood it, and benefited from it's quick access to people, with Lotus Notes 6.5 IBM has now brought some similar features to the Notes community. So for some customers seeing IBM doing this will validate what we have been doing all along, it also helps people get a better understanding that instant messaging has great value within the corporation.

IMUserGroup:  When you say, Lotus has taken some similar features what features do you mean?

Carl Tyler: There are a few examples where we have some similar features. For example with both products you have the ability to see if the person who sent you the email is online, and both products also support the awareness for the To and CC fields in the email. However, unlike the Instant Technologies product, with the Notes Instant Messaging integration you have to have the mail item open to see the TO and CC fields awareness.

IMUserGroup: Are there other areas where IBM is still missing features compared to Instant TeamMessenger?

Carl Tyler: There are a few, how long do you have? <laughs> IBM has done a nice job implementing the core features. However, since we have been in the market for almost one year, we have had the opportunity to listen to a good deal of customer feedback and implement additional layers of functionality. So some of the features we have, and customers love, that Notes 6.5 doesn't have:

  • Automatic archiving of chats to the journal for later searching - this is one of our most popular features, and allows people to easily go back and see what they said and to whom.
  • Calendar Presence Awareness - This is a feature, that lets you manage your Sametime Status description with your calendar, so for example if you had a meeting at 10am, and the subject line was "Meeting to discuss product plans", when 10 am comes around, your Sametime Status can be changed to away, we actually allow any of the Sametime states, and automatically change your Sametime Status Description to read "Meeting to discuss product plans".
  • We also made a number of enhancements to the Sametime chat client, which are fully compatible with regular Sametime users, one key request we added was emoticons, also know as smilies, another feature we added to the chat client was support for time stamps, you have no idea how many times people had requested that, another thing we added is the ability to make the chat window transparent, this allows you to continue chatting in the window whilst still being able to see what's underneath.

I have a few more, but you should probably get your readers to watch the movies on our website to see all our features <grins>.

IMUserGroup:  What was the biggest challenge integrating Instant Messaging into Microsoft Outlook?

Carl Tyler:  Now that's an easy question, NAME RESOLUTION! Many companies are using different directories for their e-mail system and Instant Messaging systems. This took a while to figure come to grips with, creating some complex algorithms to handle different naming conventions and situations we feel like we have that licked now. Looking at Notes 6.5 it looks like Lotus has made the assumption that Notes/Domino is sharing the same directory as the one Sametime is using, in reality this often isn't the case, with some using LDAP for Sametime and Domino for Notes; this again is one of those things that you often don't come across until your product is in customers hands, it will be interesting to see how IBM addresses this issue in future releases. In the future we expect this kind of issue will drive people to more seriously consider a single directory for their company.

IMUserGroup:  What do you think IBM has done right in Notes 6.5?

Carl Tyler:  Well the first thing that jumps out at me is that they've made it very easy to use Domino Designer to integrate Instant Messaging awareness into Views and Forms, I see this as a great step forward. I really like the way they show awareness states within the Notes Views, and allow you to click right form within the view. We had to do this slightly differently in Outlook because of some design limitations in the Outlook client, we're keeping our fingers crossed that Microsoft will provide access to this type of functionality in the future. I also like the fact that IBM developed this solution using native Windows code rather than using a Java client, this makes the product much more snappy and much more usable than the first iteration of Sametime integration into Notes.

IMUserGroup:  Well our time is up, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Carl Tyler:  You're very welcome.

Located in Beverly, MA, Instant Technologies ( is a privately held software company dedicated to extending the software functionality commonly associated with real-time, collaborative ("RTC") technologies. Instant is the 2003 IBM Lotus Beacon Award Winner and winner of the e-Pro Magazine readers choice Apex Award. 

Carl Tyler, CTO for Instant Technologies, recently presented his thoughts on Lotus Notes 6.5 to the Instant Messaging User Group. 




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