A blog focused on messaging, Web and collaboration issues, including email, instant messaging, VoIP, Web conferencing and other technologies that help people communicate more efficiently and effectively.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some thoughts on Lotusphere

I am attending Lotusphere in Orlando, always an interesting and enjoyable time in (mostly) sunny and warm Florida.

There have been three major themes for this Lotusphere thus far:
  • Cloud: IBM is making major strides toward moving its offerings into the cloud. Announced last week, and mentioned today, is that Panasonic will be migrating 380,000 employees to LotusLive, clearly the largest cloud deployment to date. Many of Panasonic’s employees are new to email, while the rest are migrating from a combination of platforms, including Exchange. Somewhat surprisingly, Panasonic is not migrating slowly to LotusLive, but instead started migrating employees in a serious way the week after the agreement was signed. Interestingly, the primary use case for LotusLive is not replacement of on-premise infrastructure, but instead additive to the existing on-premise infrastructure of on-premise Notes deployments.
  • Mobility: IBM is also focusing heavily on mobility, demonstrating a number of interesting mobility-based features and functions for Notes, Sametime and other platforms. One of the first speakers at the Monday morning keynote was from RIM, although announcements were also made for the iPhone, as well.
  • Vulcan: Project Vulcan is the evolution of the Lotus portfolio into the next generation of collaboration offerings. A variety of what are essentially “pre-alpha” software offerings will be made available through LotusLive for the purpose of offering new capabilities rapidly from the IBM Research labs. While the new offerings will be offered perhaps monthly, specific support will not be provided.
Arguably, the most interesting of the announcements was Project Vulcan, including the unavoidable references to Mr. Spock and the alternatives being “illogical”. The announcement has the combined feel of the interesting and innovative products that Google offers through the beta versions of its products; and the offerings that you might find from a small startup that is providing its offerings at no cost in order to gain visibility.

As a company, IBM has an interesting persona. As the second largest software company, they strike me as a bit self-deprecating. Their thrust in Collaboration Agenda, for example, will focus only secondarily on their own solutions. Their Panasonic win is, by far, the largest cloud computing deployment ever, yet it did not receive inordinate attention at Lotusphere. LotusLive now has more than 18 million seats deployed, yet this was mentioned only in passing.

By no means do I mention this in a pejorative way – in fact, I believe this persona makes IBM’s offerings better and the company a more formidable competitor in the long run. Further, being second in the market is a benefit to IBM’s customers, in part, because it forces the company to do things that it might not otherwise do – build for a wide variety of platforms, offer a robust desktop productivity suite at no charge, etc.

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