Nick Shelness’s Main Impressions from Lotusphere

Editor's note: Before embarking on his currently footloose and fancy-free existence, Nick used to be CTO of Lotus.

Lotusphere 2008, the big annual user and business partner conference/exhibition for Lotus software, was held in Orlando, January 20-24, 2008. Here are my main impressions.

I've now had a chance to synthesize the flood of inputs. My overwhelming impression is that the trends that began with Lotusphere 2007 announcements are continuing apace. The era of: "WebSphere is the answer, now what was the question", "two lane highways", and product names akin to labelling sushi as "cold raw dead fish" are happily over, and IBM is again treating the Lotus installed base as an asset to be supported/exploited rather than ignored. This manifests itself on a number of fronts.

  • The adoption of a common, multi-platform (Windows, Linux, Mac), composite application, container (Eclipse/Expeditor) for all Lotus applications (Notes, Sametime, Symphony, QuickR, and Connections) and Lotus and third-party components.
  • The adoption of a common and modern UI look and feel for all Lotus applications and components.
  • The announcement of a large set of components both Lotus (widgets) and third-party provided (Google gadgets, SAP plug-in for Notes (code name "Atlantic") that can be employed in both the common (Eclipse/Expeditor) container and IBM WebSphere Portal. IBM anticipates that customers will enable LOB components as well as exploiting Notes-, Sametime-, and Symphony-derived components.
  • The announcement of capabilities that will allow Lotus Sametime to catch up (Sametime Unyte--an IBM operated conferencing service, and a telephony control agent) and surpass (broad PBX support) Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007. Direct multi-point audio and video capabilities remain a significant plus when compared to OCS, which still only allows point-to-point audio and video without the use of a conferencing service.
  • Announcements (Lotus Foundations--a collaboration appliance, and Bluehouse - a colloberation service) that constitute the spearhead of a Lotus re-entry into the SMB market. Historically, Lotus was successful in the SMB market--think cc:Mail and 123. Whether there is anyone left at Lotus or IBM with the necessary SMB marketing skills remains an issue, as does IBM's long-term commitment to the spend that will be required in support of such a move.
  • A commitment to further Domino performance and Domino Designer functional improvements.

Finally, I tried to cut through some of the FUD that Microsoft ("do you want to be the world's last Notes customer") and IBM have been spreading. In corridor discussions with trusted sources in IBM Lotus, it would appear that IBM is having considerable success in selling WebSphere Portal Servers into Microsoft-dominated accounts, and that there is a lot of interest in Lotus Connections at both IBM, and Microsoft, dominated accounts. It is seen as a way of catering to the Facebook generation!

There still seems to be quite a lot of prospect push back when it comes to Sametime/OCS. They just don't see the need for more than email, and don't get the value of "presence").

I will be blogging in further detail about these announcements/trends over the coming week.

... Nick Shelness

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