IBM/Lotus in the house of M. Mouse (and icy driving)

Just like yellow snow, it's IT Blogwatch: in which Lotusphere 2007 draws the faithful to Orlando. Not to mention how not to drive on ice...

Janet^H^H^H^H^H Todd R. Weiss is there:

Placing an emphasis on more closely tying together existing information streams inside companies, IBM kicked off its Lotusphere 2007 conference today by offering some 7,000 IT users and professionals a wide range of first looks at its latest collaboration tools.

Pointing to the company's new Lotus Connections enterprise social networking application, a collaborative content-sharing program called Lotus Quickr, and a host of features in the upcoming Version 8 of Lotus Notes and Domino, Lotus executives said they're offering business users the tools needed to collaborate more efficiently.

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As for Lotus Connections, IBM officials said it will bring business-grade social networking to large organizations, supporting in-house corporate networks that are protected by secure systems, with full customization and seamless collaboration. Slated for a midyear release, Connections will feature five Web 2.0 pieces designed to allow users to collaborate on activities, communities, bookmarks, profiles and blogs.

David Ferris is, too. The blighter:

Notes/Domino 8 ... is already in limited beta; public beta starts soon ... Lots of good new features that ultimately felt like an upgrade release ... actually very important, and we're currently working on an in-depth study of Notes/Domino and its future ... Lotus [has] added a lot of good features ... [to] Lotus SameTime ... over the last year, and is continuing to do so. It's the centerpiece of what is likely to be a rich unified communications offering ... "Quickr" ... known internally as "Geneva" ... will come in a free personal version, and a for-fee standard version ... This is a rich teamspace, with shared document libraries, calendars, tasks, blogs/wikis, version control, and so on ... Lotus will offer new social software. Code named "Ventura," this will mainly consist of profile and community information, blogs, bookmarks, and activities. Lotus pitches this as the first social software for business, and cites popular consumer systems such as FaceBook and MySpace ... The concept is interesting if currently a little fuzzy.

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We were told how fantastic the business is. This was supported by ambiguous statistics. Lotus has a solid business, but the implications of wonderful growth weren't convincing.

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Nothing was said about IBM Lotus Workplace. Seems this major project has been put aside ... IBM Lotus has a habit of forcing its customers to think hard about new offerings, which after a couple of years get quietly put to death.

IBM's Ed Brill addresses those last two points:

Ken Bisconti specifically called out 30% growth for Notes/Domino in his OGS comments.  This is the first time in quite some time I can recall one of our executive explicitly revealing per-product results.  I felt this was key, as some skeptics thought maybe that Lotus's phenomenal Q4 was accomplished through other portfolio products.  Now you know that we did it with Notes as much as anything else.

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The bottom line for many is that there's not even a hint of confusion anymore -- Ken said point blank, "Lotus Notes is the 'one and only' strategic e-mail platform for IBM."

John Paczkowski has more on Lotus Connections:

Think of it as Facebook for the corporate set ... MySpace with suits instead of shirtless dudebros, CVs instead of streaming Top 40 videos ... Like the social networks it's modeled after, Lotus Connections offers all the tools necessary to create online communities -- Web logs, personal profiles and the like. Odd to think of that software as an enterprise tool, but apparently it resonates with corporate buyers.

Larry Dignan scoffs:

IBM getting into social networking is the equivalent of the cab driver touting stocks and the dunce down the street trying to flip real estate. The appropriate response to those aforementioned signals: Sell! The top of the market is here ... The social networking run is over. Goodbye. It's kaput.

Steve Borsch couldn't disagree more:

When a company like IBM recognizes social networking and prepares to ship software for companies to build and deliver their own social networks, it legitimizes the entire category. Most organizations I've been in have amazingly insular cultures. People stay on their floor in a building, hobnob with small circles of colleagues, and executives rarely bother to have coffee or lunch with underlings. As a sales leader, I always encouraged my team to reach out and discover who in our company might know leaders at any of their prospects since it often allowed us access to information and people we otherwise wouldn't have had.

Though the Holy Grail of marketers would be to find a way to unleash the collective intelligence of customers who'd tell them exactly what to make and what they'd then buy, starting with internally connecting the intelligence of the people inside the organization makes perfect sense ... companies and people are scrambling to figure out what the next, great hub model will be now that more and more of us are connected online and participating like crazy...and are attempting to monetize the phenomena by empowering others to build their own networks. I predict social network sites will explode this year and dwarf forums.

Stuart Mcintyre has the last word:

Wow, wow, and thrice wow! ... There is definitely a buzz about the place this year, far more than any previous 'Sphere I've been to. ... Mike Rhodin (Lotus GM) ... introduces the guest speaker, better than anyone had predicted - Neil Armstrong!  Wow, standing ovation all round.  An incredible moment.  He explains the IT that backed up the moon landing - computer with 4kb memory and one 7-digit register.  Describes the accuracy of the ocean drop (aircraft carrier in Carribean, landed in Pacific!), and some anecdotes too.  Awesome stuff - though frail and slightly faltering of speach, he holds the audience supremely well, and everyone is reveted.  Standing ovation as he leaves the stage.

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Lotus strategy now fits on one slide - amazing!

Buffer overflow:

Around the Net Around Computerworld Previously in IT Blogwatch

And finally... Ouch. Ouch. Ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch.

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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