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Developer to IBM: Keep it simple

I know that there is a growing disdain for the approach that IBM is taking in advancing a Workplace-based, WebSphere-driven future for Lotus Notes. IBM Lotus' VP of Development Mike Rhodin is basically saying that the future of Notes is just another data store for the front end, similar in applied usage to DB2. Others are saying that Notes will remain a central component of the developing portal solution, and that there is nothing to fear.

From all of this, we can somehow see a bit of the forest through the trees; that is, we can determine that J2EE will really be the platform and that all else is built upon it, analogous almost to what the C API is to Notes. Either way, the message is hardly coherent. Just obtaining pricing information is like pulling teeth.

 It seems that, so far, they are listening to no one but themselves, and the result is the appearance of a headless giant swinging its arms in several different directions.
Andrew M. Young
Senior Application Developer

The competition, on the other hand, has much leverage. Microsoft has already said that they will not support Java out of the box. Corporations seeking collaborative solutions for initial deployment may look at what IBM has to offer. They will look at Workplace, WebSphere and Lotus Notes. They will realize that there is a ton of implementation time ahead of them, and that they will need an independent staff just to lay out the means by which to piece it all together. Most of all, they will realize that the giant, Microsoft, has much simpler and inexpensive solutions readily available. The only way to siphon these types of opportunities from Microsoft is to deliver a product that offers superior functionality and at least equally simple implementation.

My brother is the CFO of a major worldwide corporation that is involved in many key markets -- a key potential customer for IBM. His IT staff had expressed a strong interest in developing their own applications. I have been trying to sell him on the excellent functionality of Notes for a wide array of applications. I showed him many of the applications that I have developed for solutions ranging from capital asset management to engineering change requests. He called me the other day and asked about this incoherent cluster of products that IBM is apparently tying together with Notes. He said that he visited IBM's Web site to do some research, but the more he saw, the less he understood. This is the epitome of what all executives will retain from delving a bit into what IBM is doing -- causing confusion.

When I told my brother about the cost of Websphere, he almost choked as he opined that they would not be able to remain competitive by marketing a backend server for upwards of $75,000.

His company needs to make this proposal at least semi-coherent so that it can be understood and explained to upper management. Developers and administrators must also be able to get a grasp on it to assist in delivering that information. As it stands now, one would need two days of training to just set up Workplace. Prior to Lotusphere, I attended a seminar on Workplace at Adience Design. I was even more intrigued about WebSphere after attending Lotusphere in January. I think the capabilities are awesome. The site content management interface stood out for me, and that is only one of what appeared to be a host of very positive selling points.

I know that I cannot expect this to all be ready for prime time at this point. But as the future is the present in terms of maintaining the most current and seamless solutions for the end user, so it is IBM's responsibility to maintain the core of the success they have had so far in this market by keeping an ear open to those whose investments built that success. This leads to the success or failure of its future with WebSphere.

It is the lack of candor that leads me to believe IBM Lotus does not realize this. It seems that, so far, they are listening to no one but themselves, and the result is the appearance of a headless giant swinging its arms in several different directions. I, for one, will not follow IBM in whatever direction it decides to take me.

I love Lotus Notes, but I am not prejudiced against Microsoft. If Microsoft offers similar functionality at less than half the cost of the developing IBM solution and with much simpler deployment and a more manageable infrastructure, I will have to make a long-term decision for my company.

Give us the strategy in plain and simple terms, IBM, and show us the apparently esoteric price tag.


Andrew Young is a CLP in Domino Application Development R5 and has been working with the Domino IDE for the past four years. His main interests in this area include leveraging COM objects to integrate Notes with other enterprise applications such as the Microsoft Office platform and back-end data containers like SQL and Access; establishing object-oriented design in all Domino applications via user-defined classes in LotusScript; and moving towards fully Web-enabled thin client access via Domino 6.

Read the column that spawned this one: John Vaughan's Developer muses on the Domino of tomorrow.

Dig Deeper on Domino Resources - Part 3

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