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News and analysis of developments in the enterprise communication industry and market with primary focus on Europe.

The author aims to tap into ideas, insights and thoughts of the readers to get varied perspectives.

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's opinion and in no way reflect those of his employer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Lotusphere, London

One of my colleagues suggested I register to IBM's Lotusphere show in London. Listening to him, together with my lovely manager (yes!), we attended the event on the banks of River Thames just by the Tower Bridge.

There were more than 500 people at the event. The spokesperson said this event saw 50% rise in the number of registrants. Saying so, IBM has a tall order. Over the past three years, ever since Exchange 2003 gained market acceptance, e-mail business has been a losing battle for the big blue. Now they say, they have had enough. According to them 2006 was the best year ever for Lotus (it wasn't bad for Microsoft either!). Leveraging their market leadership in corporate collboration suite and triggering the e-mail replacement cycle with the latest version release, they registered a whopping 30% growth and increased traction. They boasted of a deal with the Government of India, whom they are selling a Lotus Portal that the government plans to use to offer information services to its citizens. Its a project of a massive scale, thanks to the population of the country and increased sense of empowerment. Saying so, I am compelled to write about IBM's contribution to the rise of the Indian IT and software industry. It is well known that today's economic boom in India is based on its IT and software industry. However few people are aware that IBM is responsible for that. Had IBM not felt the lack of any business opportunity in India and moved out in the late 70's, the industry that commands the world's attention and respect wouldn't have been born. Thanks to their actions, today India houses several multi-billion dollar IT/software/BPO companies that gives the big blue a run for their money on global outsourcing deals. And Microsoft? Had IBM bound Bill Gates by an exclusive agreement, we would be living in a different world today.

Okay, now back to Lotusphere. Lotus 7.5 was released last year. Nice products, some enhancements. It has helped them create traction. Now that Microsoft is coming up with Exchange 2007, it seems that the e-mail replacement cycle (forced) is in vouge. Sametime, the Lotus IM client has undergone some serious changes. Apart from adding the much needed voice, video and presence capabilities; Sametime has gone open. It can be integrated to non-lotus platforms such as Outlook. Sametime can federate with public IM clouds. It can interconnect with Google talk, AIM and Yahoo. Sametime 7.5 is more than just an instant messenger. Its a platform for collaboration that offers location based services, advanced presence capabilities, integration with blackberry and other mobile devices, file transfer, a neat slide presentation capability, hand-up for attention to the moderator during a conference amongst other cool features. Together with e-mail and IM, Lotus has a very advanced product set-up. This with their strong websphere portfolio will make their proposition quite lucrative to enterprises with some disposable cash.

All that was said was said and heard. Great stuff. However when the folks tried to run a demo, working wasn't as good as the talking. The blame was conveniently placed on the poor wireless data network.

There was more to come, but mostly talk. IBM requested its customers to try out the beta version of Lotus 8 which is said to offer further advanced capabilities such as group calender, advanced scheduling and office capabilities such as documents, spreadsheets and presentations sharing. And you know what, Lotus will support both Microsoft and open document formats. IBM is taking the market seriously. My job will get more exciting.

It also appears that IBM is watching the market closely. Lotus has come up with a slew of applications such as social networking, websphere portals, Quickr, Lotus connections amongst others. To me, they all seemed like the enterprise version of cool consumer tools like flickr, facebook, orkut amongst others. What I missed was a underlying thread that linked them together so that for instance the profile information on Quickr could be replicated and found on other tools. Also, the discussion seemed very silo-based, but I may just be a skeptic.

Finally, the area that interests me the most. IBM's UC2. Finally, the big blue is up in action. It has created an ecosystem of partners, build the necessary framework and is planning to use the upcoming e-mail and collaboration uptake surge to promote UC2. It will be an interesting space to watch. IBM is undoubtedly the leader in collaboration, and is placed second to Microsoft in corporate e-mail. The two giants are expected to be using the replacement surge to push their agendas of unified communication during 2007-2009. With these thoughts in mind, I left Lotusphere wondering how the industry will shape in 2007. More, later.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

'IT revolves around YOU' was the mantra of event. I remain sceptical over the success of v8 and Sametime 7.5. Still seems pretty rigid i.e. Lotus Notes like, despite the alliances, mesh-ups and enhancements. Presence, chat share, video chat were key features but IMHO - not rocket science. Neil Armstrong's video stream was as far out of this world as it got. I would've probably been more enthused if competitive differentiation was discussed e.g. how we'll tackle Microsoft. But I guess not the right place and perhaps not the right time. All in all, a 'feel good about one's self' event. 'Good ideas and good design stand the test of time' (Armstrong).