Lotusphere: Hey, Maybe IBM is a Software Company
- By John K. Waters
I didn't make it this year to IBM's Lotusphere
conference in Orlando. The freakishly frosty winter Mother Nature and her Niño
have visited upon us here in the Golden State has made that lapse in my
conference schedule shiveringly disappointing. However, I did catch up with Alan
Lepofsky, senior manager of strategy for IBM's Lotus Software group, who called
me on Friday from his hotel just after the closing conference session. His
fevered enthusiasm for the event and the technology it supports warmed me right
''I'm walking around the hallways this week and people are telling me, you
nailed it, we're thrilled with what you're telling us,'' Lepofsky told me.
''Everyone feels like a rock star.''
This year's event drew an estimated 7,000 attendees, which I think is a
double-digit increase over last year (which had more attendees than the year
before that). The reason: ''Partners trust us again,'' Lepofsky said. ''We're
delivering what they're asking for.''
Hmm… Give the customers what they… ask for? That could catch on.
My sarcasm aside, these guys are definitely doing something right. IBM
announced growth for the Lotus group in 2006 that included a 30 percent increase
of shipments of the core Notes/Domino product over 2005.
One of the most interesting products unveiled at this show was Lotus
Connections, the company's first integrated bundle of social networking tools.
Scheduled to ship sometime later this year, Connections aims to provide the
enterprise with business-ready tools for blogging, bookmark sharing, user
profiles, and software to track activities and build online communities. '
'We've established ourselves with the things people know and the products
people use, while introducing Lotus as, once again, the leading provider of
software for people,'' Lepofsky enthused. ''We did it a long time ago with
cc:Mail. We did it again with Groupware and Notes. We repeated that with
enterprise-level instant messaging. We didn't invent email or IM; we brought it
into the enterprise. We're doing it again with social software. We didn't invent
it, but we're making it real for companies to use internally.''
Tanisha Kuckreja, Melbourne-based analyst for Ovum, sent me a note about the show. He saw in
this year's event ''a new sense of optimism at Lotus with the fog finally
clearing on IBM’s delivery of the new-look Lotus platform.'' He passed along
some analysis from Ovum's public sector research director, Steve Hodgkinson, who
attended the event. Hodgkinson observed that Lotus General Manager Mike Rhodin
''has transformed Lotus and given it a new sense of purpose since he took
over... four years ago.''
''Rhodin has presided over a significant competitive repositioning of Lotus
and a total redevelopment of the core software products,'' Hodgkinson writes.
''The positioning is open, platform independent, extensible and backward
compatible. No rip-and-replace upgrades required. The products are engineered
for the evolving work practices of knowledge workers , built using the open
source Eclipse development language, and fully compliant with open document
In fact, Domino/Notes 8, Quickr (the new content-sharing and management
tool), the new Connections bundle, and Sametime 7.51 all were built on Eclipse
with the company's Expeditor tool. ''We're using Eclipse to develop our own
products,'' Lepofsky said. ''That opens up a world of possibilities for
developers that's unheard of. Application developers were a monumentally huge
part of this week.''
Gartner analysts saw the announcements
and activities at the event as evidence that IBM is beginning to ''reinvent
''Significant updates to Lotus Notes and Quickplace, as well as the
introduction of some compelling new products, were the reason that IBM's
Lotusphere 2007 was buzzing with positive feedback from IBM customers and
partners,'' Jeffrey Mann, Tom Austin, David W. Cearley wrote in a
But these analysts also worried about the ''murky'' relationship the Quickr
product to others, such as Domino Document Manager, DB2 Content Manager and new
document-oriented clients. They also feel that, though the social software has
promise, ''the lack of consumer-focused or Web 2.0 software-as-a-service
offerings limits penetration.''
One element of this year's show added some real weight to the event, imbued
it with a new relevance, a gravitas—a coolness, if you will—that bodes
well for the Lotus group: Google had a booth.
''When Google sets up a booth at your show,'' Lepofsky said, ''you're hip
of the opening session is available online. You also might check out Adam
Gartenberg's blog on this
event. (He's the manager for unified communications in IBM's collaborative software unit.) And for Lotus tips and talk, be sure
to check out Alan Lepofsky's blog.
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached