Wednesday, January 21, 2009

IBM Should Set Lotus Notes Free

IBMImage via WikipediaIBM has tried to revive Lotus through many incarnations (Dual Highway, Workplace, Sametime) and has by many accounts (including mine) improved the product markedly.

The issue isn't whether the product is good. The issue is whether it's relevant. First, how many people outside IBM even use Lotus? Market share is a real issue. If your business partners use Facebook, what's the point of using Quickr or Connections? It strikes me as rather solipsistic.

The other, related, problem, is that Facebook (and LinkedIn, to name two) are free, and freely chosen by its intended audience--oh yeah, the users.

That is the essential problem for IBM--it has no users to speak of -- for Lotus.

Mike Gotta puts it nice and starkly for IBM, even as he paints this year's Lotusphere as a chance to make Lotus relevant to the larger enterprise market:

Yes, individual products are improving and individual teams behind those products are more energized (namely the Lotus Sametime and Connections teams) - but having a few products improve is not going to deliver the type of tipping point IBM needs in the market.

Even adding features like a LinkedIn plug-in is irrelevant when users will pluck tools off the Web like fruit from a tree, rather than getting stale versions at the supermarket.

IBM can continue to try and put lipstick on its software pig, but it will still smell like a piece of adjunct functionality to a legacy enterprise application of yore.

IBM should do the right thing and use next year's Lotusphere as a platform for selling Notes to a company capable of making it exciting and, most of all, free. Free from its IBM legacy and free of cost as well.

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