This week is Lotusphere, IBM’s annual gathering of Notes and Domino users in sunny Orlando, Florida. On tap are numerous sessions setting out IBM’s real-time communications and collaboration strategy.
For IBM Lotus customers I think it’s fair to say that the buzz is back. In the last year Lotus has reaffirmed its commitment to challenging Microsoft for desktop dominance. With the release in September of Sametime 7.5, IBM positioned Sametime as an alternative to Microsoft’s Office Communications Server/Office Communicator as a real-time communications dashboard. IBM’s value proposition is based on an open architecture supporting the Eclipse open source framework, enabling a greater capability for third-party application development compared to OCS/MOC. In addition, IBM has put forth plans to embed real-time communications capabilities into the forthcoming release of Notes version 8.
Vendors that I’ve talked to have been pleased with IBM’s moves. I’ve heard from several now that IBM’s open framework makes it easier to build value added applications that leverage the core instant messaging and presence capabilities provided by Sametime versus using Microsoft’s more limited developer tools. From the enterprise side we continue to see Microsoft with a growing mindshare among corporate customers. In just over 100 interviews for our upcoming benchmark “Building a Successful Virtual Workplace” there was a demonstrable momentum around Microsoft’s communications and collaboration capabilities. The challenge for IBM is not only to convince new enterprises to embrace IBM’s platforms, but perhaps more importantly, to keep its own customers from abandoning Notes and Sametime in favor of Microsoft.
IBM’s Ed Brill reports that this year’s event will attract a record crowd, with European attendees making up 25% of the total audience. This is of course a very good sign, it means that IBM’s renewed commitment to Notes/Sametime is driving customer interest. Now, the challenge for IBM is to recapture the enterprise mindshare that it has lost to Microsoft in recent years. After this week, we should have a far better idea of IBM’s roadmap for the future.
Note: I will be part of an analyst round-table discussion following the Unified Communications Keynote on Tuesday (tomorrow) morning. Myself and fellow Collaboration Loop contributor Mike Gotta will be joined by Brent Kelly of Wainhouse Research as we provide our comments on the IBM UC strategy. Please feel free to stop by and say “hi”.
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