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Lotus GM addresses WebSphere worries

Ambuj Goyal has a message for Domino die-hards: The messaging and development platform isn't disappearing, but don't look for IBM to feature it in any marketing campaigns anytime soon. The lifelong developer who took over as Lotus general manager in January says IBM Lotus would be foolish to jeopardize its massive Notes/Domino installed base. Why all the worry then? That's what SearchDomino.com asked Goyal last week, after the launch of new products in the open standards-based IBM Lotus Workplace line.

A recent survey of our readers found that Domino users are extremely pleased with the product but are very afraid of the move to WebSphere. After nearly two years of trying to allay these fears, why is there still such uncertainty?
Anytime you endorse the future, you have to worry about the base. Let me give you a 20-year-old example. Most transaction-processing databases were IMS. Then we moved to DB2, which is a relational database. People were worried that IMS would disappear because of DB2. But we still continue to support IMS -- even today. And, for an example in the last decade: Most of the transaction processing for business applications ran on COBOL and CICS. We built a brand new transaction processing system called the WebSphere application server. Given our history, when we asked people if they want us to just live with CICS or want us to endorse open standards, I think most of our base understood. That doesn't mean that we abandoned CICS. IBM is very good at leveraging its base and continuing to expand on it.

We have a huge user base on Notes and Domino. They would like us to move them forward. They would like Notes to become a portal client, in addition to being an e-mail, instant messaging and collaboration client. For Domino applications, we are saying we could deliver applications in any rich client or Web browser -- not only through Notes. I can move [the base] forward by continuing to build on client-server technology. I would rather move them forward by building on open standards that every browser and device is using. I'd rather I didn't have to invest in developing the infrastructure element over and over again.

So what should current Notes/Domino shops do about WebSphere/DB2?
Nothing. Just move to ND6.5. That's the starting point for us to start 'portalitizing' Domino and Notes applications. You can start delivering Domino applications not only in Notes, but in any portal [a company] might have built, any Web site. When that happens, we are also building this downloadable rich client, so in a browser you can get some more capabilities inside it. So Notes/Domino customers have a road map for moving to the Workplace world to be able to build by Notes 8 dynamic collaborative workplaces. So whom do you blame for all this fear about WebSphere? Is it Microsoft?
It is to Microsoft's advantage to say Notes/Domino is dead. We would need to have an intelligence test if we were going to take a 110 million-user base and screw that up. Microsoft's own marketing gets in the way of their products. I would rather we focus on delivering real value to real customers with a better total cost of ownership. Ask Microsoft where they got this [concept that Domino is dead], because I didn't say it. Then again, I could just announce that Office is dead. (laughs) And part of this strategy is to also court the non-Notes user.
Non-Notes/Domino users might not want Notes on the desktop. They just want a browser. As we move forward, we want to enhance our base by giving them more capabilities and create a new base that may or may not want to deploy Notes and Domino. You're right; [existing] customers are worried about WebSphere/DB2. My view is the more products we ship in the marketplace, the less worried they will be. You've said that Microsoft's marketing is the best thing about its products. Our readers have asked us, 'Why isn't Lotus doing a better job marketing its software?'
We talk technology too much. I would rather start with what problem the customer is having. Our marketing is around that concept. We deliver better TCO and better business value. I would hate to market Domino or LotusScript or JavaScript or SQL Server or WebSphere. I don't want to market that. Our marketing is more driven by business value to users. I would say the blame [for not marketing Domino] is on me, and I accept it. I'm not going to change it. The biggest complaint I had was [about] marketing Workplace as a J2EE server. That's stupid, unless I can show the business value.

The battle we want to fight is the business value battle. Don't put us in the e-mail or IM category because we're about the value. The e-mail market is declining. If we remain in that box, our revenue will decline. But the collaborative solutions market is growing, and that's where we want to be.

Exchange and Outlook have been slammed with security problems in the last two years. Why not focus more of your marketing effort on promoting Domino as a secure alternative to Microsoft environments? Aren't you missing an opportunity?
I think we are. The first things that customers say they want [in exchange for] total cost of ownership is security and scalability. And the thing we emphasize in TCO is security and scalability first. If we marketed just to security and scalability, though, I'd be a bit concerned. The second thing users say on TCO is that they want to leverage existing investments. Open standards, no rip and replace [of products] is the way we want to deal with this. Why are we doing all this? There must be some reason. It's business value. The way we succeed is to continuously innovate to lead to better TCO and greater business value. Remember, I come out of research. I know there is nothing that cannot be broken. New figures from the Radicati Group have Exchange at 30% market share and Domino at 26%. IDC has also been reporting gains for Exchange. What's your market share objective? Are you hoping to grow, or is it more realistic to hold your own in a mature market?
I have not seen the Radicati numbers. I have seen Gartner's and IDC's numbers. I think, in terms of looking at share, these guys have dropped the seat measurement because it was askance. You can ship a seat with every OS and count it. So they shifted to revenue. When [Microsoft] allocates a percentage of Windows [revenue] to messaging, I don't really know what [market share] accuracy you get there. But when we look at the top 5,000 accounts, let me tell you, we're not losing share, we're gaining share.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Article: Lotus delivers Workplace additions

Special report: The Lotus report card

Dig Deeper on Domino Resources - Part 4

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