I just got back from the gathering of the IBM Lotus faithful in Orlando, Lotusphere. I find these conferences useful, energizing and bewildering in just about equal measures. Of course, I can find out what IBM has been up to, and what they intend to do in the coming year with the Lotus product line. Concentrated access to a parade of Lotus executives to answer my questions is very useful. Seeing what customers are doing, and generally being around thousands of people committed to improving collaboration gives me a great deal of energy. I go to many conferences as an analyst, but the level of involvement at Lotusphere is always refreshing.
We will be publishing formal research on the announcements, but the big news this year is Lotuslive, a real cloud-based platform for Lotus products. Other highlights include Blackberry-RIM integration, SAP integration called Alloy to counter Duet and other integration plugins for LinkedIn and Skype and several upgrades to existing products.
I must admit that the level of energy is also a bit bewildering. The atmosphere at Lotusphere is somewhere between a summer camp for geeks and a rock concert. Even if it is in January, the weather in Orlando usually feels like summer in Amsterdam. I am accustomed to a bit of cynicism or at least skepticism when it comes to vendors, but any of that is hard to find here. Standing room only crowds, cheering, enthusiastic Karaoke nights and even goofy SpeedGeek events are evidence of enthusiastic followers.
This sentiment has certainly changed from when I first started coming to these events about ten years ago. In those dark days, the Lotus strategy was cloudy and confusing, and participants were worrying about their choices and their careers. Now, while Lotus has trouble with formidable competitors with Microsoft, Google and a host of collaboration and social software start-ups, few can question IBM’s commitment to the product line. They are investing in innovation, and it shows.
I am not sure that I believe all of the rah rah purporting to show that Lotus is defeating all others. I regularly speak with big Lotus shops switching to Exchange, but almost never any going the other way. But it’s also clear that reports of Notes’s demise have been premature. That’s good. I like competition. Markets need it, users like it, and innovation requires it.
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