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Strategy update: The Lotus position

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The powers that be at Lotus are taking great pains to convince users of three things: IBM cross-brand integration is good, open standards are the future, and Domino's days as a development platform aren't numbered. Yet more than a few skeptics remained among the roughly 5,000 attendees at Lotusphere last week. In a conversation with SearchDomino.com, Lotus' vice president of marketing, Bryan Simmons, offered some insight on the Lotus strategy.

So there's not that much collaboration in the labs?
You can't really have specialization without having specialization. That said, it's not as if there's no dialogue. That's what adherence to the standards is about. It negates the necessity of constantly talking to one another. If we're going to use componentry from Tivoli in Domino or from DB2 and WebSphere in our Next Gen Mail products, then I need to be confident up front that we have some agreement on standards that are going to be adhered to, so I know this stuff will screw together when we get to the end. So the groups work independently, but I think there are some architectural councils that bring together people across the various development teams so that there is a method and a consistency to the work that's being done. Thus far, we've heard a lot about how openness involves other IBM brands. But does that openness include .NET?
Absolutely. Look at the product we're proposing as our next general mail product. There are a lot of underserved users out there who don't have e-mail. Many of them are in Microsoft shops, and we have every intention of walking in there with that offering and making a very credible run at serving those users -- even though many of those customers may not have bought anything from us before.

Another example is with Sametime and QuickPlace. These are examples where we can go into a shop that has never bought anything from us and bring incremental value to whatever it is they've already bought. So we're banking on making ourselves relevant everywhere by the adherence to open standards. From a research and development standpoint, how much overlap is there among the various IBM software brands?
There's not overlap; we're working the overlap out. When you take the overlap out and have underpinnings -- pieces that you get from another development team -- you're able to focus on your core area of innovation. [It's] the same way when you're building a house. You build it using a contractor's model, and you don't ask the masons to try to do electric work. We [at Lotus] get to really focus on how people work together instead of how data is stored. Is it fair to say that a lot of what we're hearing here as far as Domino goes emphasizes it as a collaboration platform and less so as a development platform?
What may give that impression is the strong emphasis on collaborative capabilities in our opening general session. At the same time, we get our mind share from the experience that the end user has. But the magic of our platform has been how distributed the building of applications can be in an organization, and that's not something that we're putting in our past. As we move toward the next generation, we will expose developers to the same kinds of RAD (rapid application development) tools that are familiar to them. So we're not de-emphasizing the app dev dimensions. It's been said that whenever WebSphere, DB2 or Tivoli are added to a Lotus product, there would be no added licensing costs. That sounds like a way to drive adoption of these other IBM brands.
I would say the answer is no. That's not a trick of any kind. It'd be one thing if we were bundling stuff in and providing it for free. But often the code that we're taking from another brand and underpinning in another offering is not all of the code, but some of it. And it's all transparent to the customer. They don't have to install it; they don't have to commit to it. It comes right out. If one day they don't like it, they unscrew it and they pull it out of their deployment. I've heard 2003 described as the year IBM makes good on the on-demand promise. Can you talk about how things Lotus is doing this year will contribute to the realization of that strategy?
First, let's talk timing. Your question shines the light on how quickly IBM can achieve mind share with its vision. [IBM CEO] Sam Palmisano only began talking about e-business on demand on Oct. 30. It's only been since then that the world has known anything about 'on-demand.' We're quickly moving toward execution. From a Lotus software stance, that vision is completely compatible with some notions we've been pursuing for some time.

When you think about the term 'on-demand,' it has a number of dimensions. One is to buy processing power and have access to services on an as-you-go basis. But it's not just about purchasing. It's also about speed. It's getting the answers you need on demand, finding the people you need on demand. It's the coming together of the right data, the right people, the right processing power. This week, when we talk about presence awareness, when you think about how we are underpinning pieces of WebSphere and DB2 in our next-generation mail offerings, these are steps toward making that grid a reality -- where it's just functioning and all the pieces are firing in the right combination and context. So I think we're already executing it.

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