IBM Verse Freemium is DEAD

What can change in a week. Last week in Zürich Scott Souder said IBM Verse Freemium will not be a crippled version. So much for that. Nice move from IBM to stab Scott in the back. Now it is a preview version that is so useless, that IBM might what to turn that server of again. That would save a few bucks in electricity.

IBM Verse Support Forum (thank’s to Karl-Henry Martinsson)

IBM really does not get it (… again). Somehow Vowes comment about the Village Idiot comes to mind.
Let’s recapitulate what IBM wants to achieve with Verse:
Take on Gmail
With what? A preview version? 24 mails in 24 hours? 500 MB quota? An unfinished product? No migration tool? No signature? 500 MB files? Oh, you say, that is only for the “Enterprise” version, not for freemium – ups sorry – preview? And with what they want to convince people to move? With a preview version that isn’t even powerful enough to show the really cool bits?
IBM you just made Google very happy. But I doubt, that they ever took you very serious.

500’000’000 users
OK, I suppose somehow the zeros got multiplied due to the bad acoustics in Zürich. 5’000’000 users would be less unrealistic target, but a failure. With this preview version IBM will not even get those.

And than we have that:
Jeff Schick says that mail would be CO-HOSTED in Europe. And where is the other server? I suppose, were it is convenient to read all the mails.

It is really depressing. Every time I think IBM might starts to understand a few things how the world works, they blow it in the end. Every time. Amazing.

Right, it’s over. They might move a few existing customers to Verse. A few million seats, that’s it. Just like any other small hoster. We can move on now. The revolution has never happened.

Soul or Numbers – Sports for Developers

A year ago Vowe started walking. Today he is doing at least a hundred kilometers a week.
This is great. It certainly changed his life. If you are a “numbers athlete” you can do that, too. I am not.
Also a year ago I felt I had to do something. I sensed, that I wasn’t up to speed anymore while moguls skiing. I have never been really fat. 10 years ago I was at my worst with slightly over 80 kilo, today I am down to 75 again. My BMI was never out of the normal range. Therefore I never had the urge to do a lot … until my belly started to wobble in the moguls. Eeeeeeks. My friends suggestion to buy other higher skiing trousers to hold it, wasn’t actually the solution I was looking for.
About 5 years ago I started to do more and more mountain biking tours. Even in winter. Not when it is really hot. I am not the hardcore biker who is looking for the hardest tours he can find. I just enjoy the ride and look at the country side.
Since the monsters are old enough now, that they not need constant supervision, my wife and I started windsurfing again. But in Switzerland, that isn’t a sport we can do on a regular basis. Windsurfing is limited to holidays and is the only reason anyone can make me go to a beach for more than a few hours. No lying in the sun for me. I hate this with a passion you can only dream of and with my skin I rather stay in the shadow.
Biking going up is boring and it isn’t using the whole body. Downward it does, but only for a short time.

I never measure anything. Every time I tried to clock my biking rounds, I forgot to turn the stopwatch off. It isn’t for me and anyway, I always try to find new routes. I don’t like repetitive movements like jogging either and I definitely can’t imagine to run on a conveyor belt in a gym (outside are roads and trails in woods, go there). One day somebody I talked to about biking, asked me, if I also liked it, when everything starts to hurt. Hell, NO! I don’t go into trance either.
You will not see me with any smart device that tracks anything I do. I am not interested in that. When I go skiing, I even “forget” my phone. Leave me alone when I am doing what I love. I can’t explain what it does to me, if you don’t do it yourself and in that case we would not need words anyway. I am totally outside the world of “I beat my own record”.
When I go skiing with people who do all that endurance stuff and brag about their latest marathon, it’s always them, who crawl back to the car on all fours because they are exhausted, never me. I always have to wait for them. I don’t need a break after only 90 minutes of skiing. They do. I don’t complain about the thin air at 3300m. Though my physical fitness isn’t as bad it seems, but most of my advantage comes from the thousands of hours I invested to become a technically better skier. Something that is hard to measure.
I am a soul athlete (the words of a friend). I cherish the movement of my legs going as fast as possible through the moguls or going down that really steep slope on Mont Gelé in Verbier in fresh powder (the front side towards Atlas I). I love it when I go over rocks on single trails (downward – fast – biking). I am in heaven when I am sliding over small waves and all the forces are in balance (windsurfing). I want my brain completely focussed on that moment. Not thinking about anything else.
(BTW, all the fitness does not save you from sleep deprivation. You can not train to use less sleep. You might feel strong like King Kong Friday afternoon, but you still have the mental capacity of a legally drunk).
But still, I needed something to fill the gaps between winter and summer holidays and something where I am forced to go. And I wanted to learn something new.

Kung Fu!

To be exact, Chin Woo Kung Fu. That was the thing I started a year ago. And since I am a bit timid (stop laughing, Pierre), I asked monster no. 1, if she wanted to come. And this is really cool. My daughter and I are learning something new together. Not father-shows-child-how-to-do and he get’s it all wrong, because he never learned it correctly. I don’t teach my kids skiing, I am not a ski instructor. I wouldn’t even teach my kids flying and I am a CFI. My daughter is certainly better than I, but I passed the last test, too.
Kung Fu as we do it, isn’t about fighting … mostly. It is more like athletic dancing which happens to be a fighting style. It is all about the movement. When the whole class does a form together, that looks rather cool. It trains every single muscle I know of. It stretches everything. It trains the sense of balance. It uses my brain, because I have to remember all the details of every move, which isn’t as easy as it may sound (sometimes I see the pain of desperation in our trainers eyes). Apparently after 10’000 times doing a move, you don’t have to concentrate as much anymore and can start to learn the move correctly.
Kung Fu is something for everyone. In my class we range from 7 or 8-year-old kids to old geezers like me. In between is everything and every gender. We even have handicapped people. There is no “who has the nicest outfit” because we have all the same clothes.
After one year I can say it is worth every penny (or “Rappen” as they say north of me).
I have less problems with my back. My belly fat moves slowly upwards. My joints do way better. My knees are stronger and most important – I ski better again.
It also gave me a few insights into society. Did you know, that above a certain age, you fade into the background? You become invisible to younger people? Let me explain.
Last autumn, another guy from my age group was missing for three weeks. I asked the trainer if he knew anything about it. One girl (age about 18) asked who we were talking about. We describe him to her. Name, height, shoe size and so on. She had never seen him. The next week he was back again and I pointed him out to her. She just said, that the two of us looked the same (certainly not!). That means, the other geezer and I are just some three-dimensional shadows she avoids to run into, otherwise we do not exist. Thank you very much. And the theory is consistent. The female age group between 16 and 25 does not even talk to us or does the partner exercises with us. That brings me to the inevitable conclusion, that I am old now. I can shovel my grave and order the tombstone.

If you are like me a soul athlete, interested in the movement and not into counting and you need something that gets you going, try Kung Fu. And at my age you can even claim that you are so fast, some only see your shadow. And in your CV Kung Fu just looks cool.

ConnectEd in Zürich – Old Boys meeting

I am not going to bore you with a lot of technical news about IBM Verse and stuff, but first, I want to thank the IBM partners and distributors, who actually run the show. IBM provides rooms and some speakers, the partners do all the rest, as I was told. Great job, really.
This time, there were more C-Level tracks half as long as a technical session. I suppose that was to allow for the lower attention span of the C-Levels, therefore I will do the same thing here and give those with a lot of meetings waiting for, a management summary:

MANAGEMENT SUMMARY
ConnectED Zürich: 5 march 2015
IBM Verse: Very good. Strongly suggest to consider replacement of Microsoft Stack.
IBM Watson Analytics: Great technology. Not available from any other vendor.
IBM Notes: Will be supported for the forseeable future. Consider to move to Verse anyway.
IBM Connections: By all accounts and opinions even from some Microsoft Partners, still the better product. Consider to move as soon as possible.
END OF MANAGEMENT SUMMARY

Having now reduced the number of readers by half we can go to a more in-depth look.
IBM Switzerland must have reduced its workforce significantly again, because half of the building is now used by other companies. That isn’t really good news. And the roof leaks. Really. I got hit by drops twice during cocktail hour.
I and others had the feeling, we were at an old boys/girls event.

There are one or two things I found rather interesting.
Scott Souder stressed the point, that Verse isn’t just about mail (we have heard that before … for about 25 years) and IBM is looking into making classic Notes apps available in the browser without a plugin. As we were told, this is a sky-high priority, since most browsers could not care less about plugins and IE is as crappy as ever (I did not see a single hand, when Scott asked who used it). He also said, that we all have to realise, that especially Notes is 25 year old. There are things in there that make it hard, to make it a modern client. The browser is just the better and easier tool for the future. But Notes 9.0.2 is coming and a 64bit version for OSX, too (Scott said we shouldn’t tweet certain things he said, that would get him fired: Sorry, Scott, I forgot which, I didn’t tweet it and you say that every time).
Domino, XPages and Bluemix are really something to be considered. It really can ease some pain. IBM thinks, it is a tool to get new developers on the platform. We have heard that before, too. I rather think it is also a great tool to migrate slowly of Domino. I just wonder about the OpenNTF tools and Bluemix.
The thing that let my jaw drop to the floor was this: Jeff Schick apparently said, that IBM wants to have 500’000’000 users in the Verse cloud … half a billion … 5 times 10 to the power of 8. Err…. Dear Jeff, do you realize that the world has roughly 7.3 billion human beings? Only about 40% use the internet: 2.92 billion. Half a billion would be about 12% market share. Notes has less than half a percent. You would have to convince a few big ones to move to Verse. I see a few hurdles to this idea.

(Disclaimer: Below is what I have seen until now. It is subject to change by IBM and I have not seen the pricing. So I might be completely and utterly wrong.)

First: Not everybody has the 500-emails-per-day-problem. Many live happily and stress free with their current installation. Even if it is an Exchange server.

Second: Do you really think companies would trust a computer to filter their mail? Companies (and there are many) whose administrators day after day go through the quarantined spam and look for mails that might be important?

Third: We don’t need another email address. The domain of the free Verse is @ibmverse.com. From a marketing point of view, that is a nightmare. It sounds like a beta domain (apart from that the name “Verse” itself is a marketing nightmare, for example in French “je verse” is pouring something and in German it sounds just awful).

Forth: It is really sad. Again IBM does not understand small companies. Nobody will move from their free or almost free @bluewin.ch (change countries and providers as appropriate) address to a free @ibmverse.com address, if there isn’t a huge advantage. 500 MB file space isn’t enough. I think IBM should match Google Drive.
For small and micro companies there isn’t that big advantage that makes them change. None whatsoever.
Every single time IBM tries to get small companies in the boat, they mess up … every f+%&/* time (my blood pressure … breathe slowly). I can’t see any reason, why this time it should be different.

Fifth: IBM claims every time they announce some new feature for Worse – ups sorry, just the sound of it, I mean Verse – competitors come up with something similar. The only difference is: The competitors deliver. They are here right now.

And last: Nobody understands Watson. You can’t show it really. How do you want to sell that? There will always come up the argument, that users can do that with rules. I use that single button on my apple mail quite often and that works nicely for me. And just for the record. Most don’t understand “People centric” neither.

Dear IBM, the Verse offering does not show a USP that makes Tom, Harry and Dick/Sally, Susan and Diana move. None. Nada. No “wana have”. I did not say it is bad, oh no, it is great, but as ever IBM marketing su….. isn’t good enough. You have to come up with an offer that is so good, that about 2 billion users might consider a change (By the way, how about a run-your-business offering for business partners? I am looking into moving my this blog and mail to something else. But I want to keep my domain).

I have seen the Verse ad for the second time. The first time was in a blog post. It isn’t “everywhere” as was claimed. At least not here. But Here and again, IBM fails again to “SHOW THE PRODUCT” as what it is. If you don’t know, it is about email, you just wonder what it is all about and the ad was clearly targeted towards big companies.
IBM isn’t on the radar of small companies. Just isn’t. Not here, not there. Nowhere. It would be IBM’s duty to go to the small companies to change that. But this is hard work and by far not as interesting as the Global 500. Which have their act together and don’t need IBM to explain it to them.
Since I am generally a nice person (some say), I give you an idea, what I think the offering should look like and makes it different from others.
A difference would make: “Pay once, use forever”.
For example. I just need freebie Verse but I want my own domain. I give you 20 bucks and that’s it. Don’t need no support. I can point my MX record to your server myself.
Need another user with the same domain? 20 bucks.
Need guest access to files? 20 bucks.
Migration of old mail and calendar entries? 100 bucks (20 from Notes).
Just add features that are not important for everyone and I pay you if I need it … once, because there is just one change once.
Give me a choice.
If I want something that asks for more space or computing power? I would pay for it every year. That is fair. But just because I want my own domain, I don’t see, why I should rent that right from you.
I want an offering where I have the choice and the difference between free and full service isn’t a 1000 bucks. Sometimes I just want a salad and not the whole menu.
And now the last bit. I don’t want to be the product. Not even if I use the free Verse. Therefore NOBODY touches my stuff, I don’t know personally. Make that clear to everyone. And even more important. I want my stuff here in my own country.
IBM I make you an offer. If you get the offering right, I will personally stand on 10 Saturdays in 10 different shopping centers and on 10 Thursdays at SMB exhibitions around Switzerland. You just have to provide the marketing material and your name. I give you my time. The exact terms would depend what we agree on, but you don’t have to pay me for those 20 days or more than 100 hours of hard work. Deal? That should once and for all show, if Verse is the product for SMB.
By the way! Where is the business partners place in all that?
So far so good. Scott Souder, HP and Louis Richardson were fun to see as ever.
Other memorable sessions – because I went there – were those of the University of Zürich and the one of Klaus Bild about SDI (formally known as TDI).
The switch of the University of Zürich to Notes is one of the big success stories of the last years. Nobody knows about it, which is another IBM marketing failure.
They have rather interesting problems. 158 institutes that can do what they want. Central IT Services can’t even do something, if one of the institutes decides they want their own stuff. The institutes are completely free, as it should be at a research university. And they have from Amigas to the latest Apple gadget everything and it has to work (well somehow limited in case of an Amiga). And only Notes/Domino can do this. Now did we ever doubt that?
During the speech Dr. Roberto Mazzoni wasn’t all nice and cheery with IBM. Scott was sitting in the audience but probably didn’t get everything, since it was in German. I suppose he heard it before. Today the University of Zürich runs a huge Domino/Notes infrastructure for about 40’000 users. All that with just 2 Admins. Amazing isn’t it? And that isn’t all. The Uni-ZH has added Connections, too (needs a bit more manpower to keep it alive though).
Two words of warning came from Sandra Bühler of Belsoft, the company that helped the University: If you use Traveller on a Microsoft Server, be aware that Microsoft might come after you and wants you to buy CAL’s for your users. There is probably something in the fine print that says you must. Therefore: Linux. It’s anyway the better solution.
IBM always says to engage HR in the deployment of Connections. Don’t! They don’t have the time and “resources” to do it.
My last breakout session was about SDI. Google it and you find “SmartCloud Desktop Infrastructure” or “Software Defined Infrastructure”. We were getting a closer look at “Security Directory Integrator” or better known as “Tivoly Directory Integrator”. When is IBM ever going to stop the product renaming circus? It does not make sense at all.
Anyway, it is still a great tool, but IBM should invest a few bucks to get some limitations fixed. It is very annoying that one has to write the whole XML code on a single line. That line can easily be a long as a cargo train. Is carriage-return-new-line such a big problem?

That was about it. I am really a bit annoyed, that I never got the chance to test Verse in its early stages. I have registered several times and never got a reply.
Whenever it comes out, I want to test it thoroughly. Is anybody out there game to do a group test? Sending emails to myself is a bit boring, but if anybody wants to find out what is all the fuss about, we could do it together. Some real life testing.

We will see what happens next.

 

Notes and Domino as Open Source – Is this really a good idea?

Once in a while the call for open sourcing of Notes and Domino comes up. Actually I personally would like that. But would it really boost the use of Notes and Domino? That is the point were I have doubts.
Let’s just forget for a moment some issues that will prevent this, because apparently there is some third-party code in there, IBM can not just give away. That’s a legal problem.
Let’s focus on the other problems, which are huge enough.

Technical
While I have no doubt, that there is a great many code that is wonderful, we had some snags in the not so recent past, that annoyed some of the best yellow bleeders so much, that they recoded a whole bunch of things, just to have something that works as it should (I just say Java).
When we would dive in the source, we would probably find quite a few more things, that should be rectified and that does not pay the rent.
While Notes is based on a Non-SQL-Document-Database, which are very en vogue today, the performance of the NSF is not at par with MongoDB or CouchBase (or CouchDB for the matter). Replacing NSF with CouchDB would give a huge performance boost, but that would demand quite a bit of new code. Some logic could certainly be reused, but still, somebody would have to write a few thousand lines in Erlang.
A few other thing were to address, the lousy performance on the Mac, search isn’t that good either in comparison. I think some of us would gladly kill the Eclipse RPC.
Domino becomes more and more expensive to maintain, too. A whole bunch of new code would be required to make administration easy and save. Web Admin comes to mind, too. There isn’t a way around a web admin.
And let’s not forget the slight security problem we have with it. Not addressing this, would be certain death of the whole thing.
We would have to do without Watson, that wouldn’t be a show stopper, but probably we would have to live without Traveller. That would be a show stopper. Developing a Traveler replacement would be quite a task.
Repeat after me: “Migration must be painless” and let’s not forget updating it should not be rip and replace.
And to round things up; to be a success, it can’t be “the same old”. Feature- and performance wise it would have to be something out of this world.

Design
The one most important thing I hate about Open Office (and Libre Office); it’s ugly. I hate to look at it. It might be technically good, but I still hate it. Notes hasn’t very compelling looks either, but still better. But to be a success, that Open Source Version 1.0 would have to be the best looking email client ever. As an example we have only to look at Android. Only because Google and others have invested in good Design, it became a success. For us geeks, Linux was always the better server choice. But as a desktop, it never really succeed. I think it is because of the desktop design. It just isn’t up to specs. Or better, it never was overwhelmingly better as Windows. Only then it would have seen as a replacement. People hate change.
But who is going to do the design? A real good designer with a vision would be required. John Ive isn’t available and I do not believe in hundreds of designers fiddling around with some design language. For a single product it has to be one person that makes all the design decisions.

Organisation
While the Apache Foundation does one hell of a job, most of the really important tools are not made for the run of the mill end-user. I doubt, that Apache would be the best way to organise the work. Notes would deserve a dedicated organisation and it probably would need one that works full-time. Therefore it has to make money. Who pays?
Probably Linux could work as a model. Having a few experts who decide where to go, is probably better, than having a democratic vote. These half gods would also be responsible for preventing any attempt of forking.
The Linux model also has the advantage, that it lets companies make money with it.
For our purpose, the initial financing could be done by the highly committed customers. Getting them in the boat and building a project and team based on Kelly Johnson’s 14 principles, is the way to success and fast.
Probably we should only focus on the server anyway. Clients could be the thing to make money. Except for basic client that serves as example and first building block, if a rich client is really needed.
Mobile is without question one of the corner stones that must be included.

Marketing
Who is going to sell that thing to companies who are absolutely against open source software for their strategic tools? Or the ones that are fed up with Notes anyway? Or those who have only heard terrible things about Notes? Only keeping the few companies that are willing to dedicate time and resources to an open source project, isn’t a viable solution for all the partners and the product. And there is the fear about migration. That should be painless. I mean really. Not just a sales pitch.
Small companies might want to go for a free version, but please in the cloud.
There are tons of ideas, how to build a business model around this and one would certainly be a good one. But is a group of volunteers capable of doing this or will there be an eternal fight between those who want to feed their kids and those who rather starve than going against the higher ideals of open source?

I believe, that IBM rather lets Notes/Domino die, than give it away. But if IBM does it and it becomes a real success and IBM would have to explain that to the greedy share holders.

Having said all that, I believe the better solution would be starting from scratch altogether.
Getting the code and finding out, that more than half of it would have to be rewritten anyway, would be a bad surprise. Starting with a clean sheet gives the opportunity to get the best ideas from the best people and make it happen much faster.
From the start the group could build something that really can change the game. For example a server, that does not care which client it serves. A server that does more than just mail, also chat, SMS and documents. A server that uses Apache as a web server (but carefull: the more third-party code, the more dependencies).
A structure that lets one store anything project AND contact based.
Thinking about it, it should be something like Connections for the poor, only with more features and fewer servers.
Still, it would be a lot of work. But fun. I would help. But frankly, the yellow bleeders are not the open source geeks who flip burgers during the day and do miracles during the night. Somebody would still have to come up with a sustainable organisation that keeps the project going and contributors happy. Even if that means the final product will not be free to use for all.
But since we know by now all the remaining Notes customers, all of them could tell us what they want from the new thing not called Notes at all. That’s a plus.
Oh, and migration should be painless. I did mention it, did I?

It’s time to say goodby … or is it?

25 years of Notes & Domino and the signs of the end of an era are getting stronger. Hardcore yellow bleeders are moving to other pastures. Some think it is the last ConnectED. That’s sad. Especially since IBM had tons of chances to turn it around. Instead of using those 138 billion (138’000’000’000 or 9.86b/yr) USD since 2000 for making a few people richer (and a lot of employees/retirees poorer), IBM could have used that, to get its act together. Did not happen. Somehow giving away money was more important, than making money.
Just to give a perspective, how much money IBM did not use for product developement:
The LHC, the biggest machine in the world, did cost 9 billion and found evidence for the Higgs and a quite a few other things important to all of us (particle physics is important, very). Still the CERN fights a constant battle against people who think this is a waste of money. It isn’t. CERN is justified just by the existence of WWW alone.
National Cancer Institute budget 2013: 4.8 billion.
Fermilab 2013 0.360 billion, down 9%.
UNHCR 2012 4.3 billion USD
UNICEF 2012-2103 0.96 billion USD

It is amazing, IBM made itself into the poster child why shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world (Jack Welch). That must count for something.
In short, 2014 was for IBM rather a disaster. Hardware sales are down 40%. There isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel to be seen.

IBM had CouchDB once. Would have been a nice replacement DB for Notes and Connections.
Instead of making programming in Notes ever more difficult and complicated, IBM could have invested money in making it easier.
Looking into a new design language in 2014. That should have been done years ago.
Did not happen. Anyway it’s a waste of time to look back.

Verse is bound to be the next cool thing. Well, we will see. At least for those who like to have their stuff around them and not in some foggy thing, it will be at least another year if not two, to wait until Verse will be available on premises, if ever.
I am willing to give it a try, but I am still waiting for the beta access, I registered for in November. Therefore I can’t say anything about it.
My last attempt to follow a webcast was unsuccessful. I waited hours for it to start and then suddenly it was over. Must have blinked. The replay link a few days later was dead.
Looks like Verse does not want to have anything to do with me. Probably I should take the hint.

 

Well, it’s a Verse

I am as ever late in the game. It took me a while to digest the whole Mail Next/Verse thing. Actually, because the whole two hours thing was kinda boring. Half an hour of demo, the rest futile attempts to explain the new way to work. Maya was cute, though.
I am not sure what I should think about Verse. On one hand, it does have a few features, I always wanted. Some of them I even did for customers and me years ago. I always thought that folders are a waste of time and I created people centric views, that showed new mails on persons. Unfortunately, I was limited by Notes and my own capabilities. I always dreamed of taking apart the whole mail client thing and attach it to a bigger picture. Things like blog responses and tweets, SMS and Chat, LinkedIn and Facebook are all just information’s that flow in. I don’t want to change applications, just to do read a LinkedIn post. Therefore I am a lousy social platform user. It never fit me. Does Verse change that? Well, I hope so. Does it have the WOW-factor I have been missing from IBM for so long? Not quite; almost. It looks good though. Interestingly it looks a lot like the first screenshots from january. Not at all like the examples I saw in april/may. What goes around, comes around.
IBM claims it is just the start of a whole new approach to collaboration. We have heard that before. We will see in january, what else IBM has to show.
IBM claims that it is compliant with EU and Swiss(!) laws. That does not mean a lot. By US-law, IBM has no way to protect our stuff here in a way that “they-who-read-all-the-mails” can not read it as long as it is in IBM’s cloud. And as if “they” ever would have cared about anybody elses laws. Therefore, will there ever be an on premises version? I doubt it. Even though the panel that was invited yesterday, was all in favor of Notes and wants to go on with it, it looks to me, that they did not realise, this isn’t Notes. There could be a Domino server somewhere in the back, but everything else will not run on Domino alone.
Maybe they know something more, or they just did not realise, that IBM wants them … in its cloud. BTW where was Scott Souder?
Even if there is an on premises version, I suspect it would be a crippled one. Anyway, without Connections, it would probably be useless. I can’t imagine IBM letting me connect to WordPress with MailN… sorry … Verse. Would be nice, though. CalDav? WebDav? No word about that either. Would have been nice to hear more about the technical side of that thing yesterday.
On the upside is the fact, that IBM seems to go for a new approach. Rather than asking customers what they want, IBM shows, what it can do. That’s more like Apple and way more innovative.
Is that the thing, IBM is betting on to get out of the swamp?

I told you, didn’t I?

THIS I wrote almost two years ago and surprise surprise, I was quite close to what happened lately with IBM and Apple. Quick read? I’ll wait.

(Dumdidumdi… have to mow the lawn again. Stupid rain … Oh, the cat (Floh, because he had flees when we got him) under my table is dreaming again. Sounds like a fight with someone. Haven’t heard him growl like that since that stupid orange tom attacked him)

Ready? Good. Overall it seems that I had the same ideas than IBM and Apple. Their products do not overlap, Apple needs, or rather wants more foothold in the B2B market. Only IBM doing something in the customer market, isn’t mentioned at all, which I think is a mistake. But I am getting ahead of things again. Let’s read the Press Info. (Dumdidum and so on)

Does somebody strike something there? Mostly it talks about what IBM is going to do. There is hardly any mention of Apple, bar the enterprise care plan.

The landmark partnership aims to redefine the way work will get done, address key industry mobility challenges and spark true mobile-led business change—grounded in four core capabilities:

  • a new class of more than 100 industry-specific enterprise solutions including native apps, developed exclusively from the ground up, for iPhone and iPad;
  • unique IBM cloud services optimized for iOS, including device management, security, analytics and mobile integration;
  • new AppleCare® service and support offering tailored to the needs of the enterprise;  and
  • new packaged offerings from IBM for device activation, supply and management.

Apart from the selfworshipping in the first part, it’s more or less IBM stuff for iOS. Apple will certainly help with the design – meaning look-and-feel and IBM needs every help it can  get – but otherwise, it’s all about IBM’s cloud offering.

For me, that does not sound like a partnership between equals. Taking in account IBM’s current problems with declining revenue, that looks more like IBM’s grasp at a straw.
If that concept fails Apple has still its consumer market, where it shines and if Apple decides it can do it without IBM in B2B, it will. For IBM it would be a lot of lost money it can’t pay to share holders, a lot of lost time it does not have to turn around and again lots of pissed off customers and partners.
Analytics also comes into play again. I don’t believe in a huge market. Analytics can become quickly much too complicated for most people and specialists in that field are in short supply. Most companies will do without or will try to mimic it by using SQL and spread sheets.
But IBM has 400 mathematicians(!) that can help. That will be the same problem as with business ratios. Most managers do not understand where the numbers come from and with analytics it will even get worse. Ratios and numbers that change with time without any clear meaning because nobody remembers the algorithm. That’s like being on the Titanic. The music is still playing, therefore it can’t be that bad. As of lately it was estimated, that of all companies using analytics, only about 40% of managers or employees understand what they are doing. That isn’t a too good ratio. If the numbers are wrong and management does not know it, they could be in for a surprise. (But hey, if a new product fails, managers now have a new culprit. “Not my fault, Analytics was to 89% positive, couldn’t help it that we happened to be in the last 11%”. And they can never be proven wrong. What a job security mechanism.)

But let’s look at the latest news from Mail Next. Kramer hints that about 60 % of all the stuff on mobile devices is mail and calendar. There is hope for a iOS based mail and calendar client from IBM? And Apple is doing the look and feel? Nice idea, isn’t it.
Somehow the whole story isn’t consistent, regarding Mail Next, Mobile First, Cloud first, Apple and IBM. For the mobile devices, IBM will have to build apps, which are “rich” clients. On the other hand, there is no mention of any rich client on “traditional” clients. PCs and Macs should go to the Mail Next web client.
Both IBM and Apple have rich clients for Macs and mobile devices. Logically I would think, something has to go. Apple will not let go of the Apple Mail client, neither on iOS, nor on OSX. Quo vadis Notes? Using Outlook as a front end, the browser plugin for Domino applications and the browser for XPages? That’s a three window hell (And it will not work for me anyway, since there is no browser plugin for anything on the Mac). A mail app from Apple, a mail app from IBM, two calendar apps and two “Notes” apps. Does that look good for Notes on iOS or OSX?
But what about the applications? It would certainly be nice to have local Domino apps for iOS. Xpages could do it. Is IBM planning on an app for iOS for all these Domino applications out there? About ten million as somebody once estimated?
I don’t see the browser plugin come to iOS, but who knows, but if that app does not happen, Domino will be relegated to what every half backed migration expert out there thinks it is, just a mail server. On the other hand, if IBM comes up with an app for that, happy days, suddenly we would have a whole new market to play with. One, where nobody knows or cares about “Notes is Dead” rumors. (And if it works on iOS, it could also work on OSX, which would be right down my alley). They just want apps that work and do not require a server farm at home for connections … ups, sorry, we are supposed to move to the cloud.
But again, I am just putting Lego pieces together and completely leave out politics.

Now there is another thing that came up in the last few years with cloud offerings. Today many companies outside the US like the idea of mobile first but not the idea of cloud first. In every webcast about IBM’s cloud offerings questions about on-premises come up. Every single time. Why is that? Do customers not trust IBM? The problem is not limited to IBM, every US cloud service, inside or outside the US, has to provide data to the US government on request (secret judge and everything). It does not matter if IBM (MS, Oracle or whoever) tells you, that the customer always knows where his data is. Neither does it matter if IBM firmly believes, that with its data encryption and with the customer only having the key, the data should be save from everybody. Nobody outside the US does trust it.
If IBM wants to shine in that market, the only solution is to sell (in selling and then they own it, not just selling the usage) the cloud software to european, russian, chinese, japanese, swiss and so on companies. These companies can set up the cloud offerings with IBM’s blessing and help, but no piece of hardware or software can be owned by IBM. There should not be any cloud or data contract between IBM and the customer. Only then, some more companies might be reluctantly be ready to move to the cloud.
(BTW, there is still an unused Yahoo data center around the corner. If anybody wants to set up a data center for anything big, Yahoo might want to be willing to sell. I would help to make it work).
Costwise IBM is in for a hard game. Cloud will become cheaper over time until enough players drop out. IBM will need a lot of money and breath to survive this and become a important player. But if you believe in the latest rumors, cloud isn’t the big money maker as the hype makes us believe.
IBM, how about the on-premises offerings? Probably Apple can help there to, how to make updates without anything crashing.
One big argument for cloud always is, from IBM’s point of view at least, the faster upgrade cycle, because IBM does not have to test on several OS’s and hardware configurations. If IBM would just sell the VM’s it uses anyway in its cloud, that wouldn’t be a problem anymore and we could all continue to use our on premises installations or move to the cloud and back without so much as a mouse click. They had them once. Where are they now? I know, some companies just don’t want shrink wrapped VM’s, but if the price tag is right, many arguments will just disappear into oblivion.
Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see where Notes and Domino goes with iOS… if they are really part of the package.

 

Mail Next and Many of you are drunk right now … kind a!

Yup, that’s true, if you are one of those incredibly hard-working men/women, who know they don’t need a lot of sleep and can work for 20 hours a day for weeks. If you find yourself here, you might want to realise you have a mental performance of a heavily drunk. And as a bonus you are killing yourself.

Every other year in May the time comes, were I have to renew my flight instructor privileges. Probably for the last 10 years they beat into us, that fatigue is one of the bigger problems in aviation and the one the easiest to solve. It rectifies itself literally while we sleep. Would be nice for all my problems.
Now the most important misconception:

  • I am young, strong, I run, I bike, I work out, therefore I need less sleep.

Na, sorry. Older people need less sleep. The average person at around 25 needs 8 straight hours of sleep and that does not change a lot until 60. No argument will change that fact. Not even coffee. And you can’t do a training to need less sleep, all you get is even more sleep deprivation.

When somebody has to work for a while more, that’s ok, as long as enough rest awaits in the end. If not, the continuous sleep deprivation leads to burn out, depression, cardiac problems, there are even signs that it might be a factor in getting cancer. Need more reason for enough sleep?
Let’s say you stay awake for 24 hours. Would you consider yourself at peak performance? Not really. I personally start feeling quite dizzy after 20 hours. Test show that continuous sleep deprivation of only two hours per night over 14 days, reduces your mental performance to the level above. That is about the one of a drunk with an alcohol level over 0.1%. Nobody wants a driver or a pilot in that mental state, but developers, admins and managers all over the world think that this is their normal level of performance. A bit more coffee and I am ok. Wrong. In that state my work is lousy. More mistakes and way slower. The problem is, my subjective feeling tells me different. In don’t feel very sleepy, actually quite ok, but my mental performance is still lousy.
Unfortunately we have a culture of who stays the longest in the office, wins. Everybody has to show, they can work hard. Real men culture. Working under pressure. Yeah.

Bullshit.

The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) just released new regulations about Pilot Duty and Rest Requirements for Airline Pilots (not for the freight dogs, which I think is stupid). After a 14 hour shift with not more than 9 hours of flight time (8 at night), every pilot must at least get 13 hours of rest and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Every pilot has to sign a document to affirm that they are fit for duty. There are now limits for daily, monthly and yearly flight time. Why? Because we don’t want almost brain-dead people on the wheel. But pilots are real men/women, aren’t they? Especially helicopter pilots. We are by definition cool, no? But if I would fly for 20 hours straight, I would probably crash. Now I am not cool anymore, rather the late blithering idiot.
Do we really need sleep deprivation to be considered hard? The results should count, not the number of meetings I can press in a day.
Unfortunately many people see this like sport. They say, that working hard is like running a marathon. That picture is wrong, because after a marathon, your body needs rest. Everybody knows that. Nobody runs 10 marathons in a row but this is perfectly acceptable in business. Working should more be considered like a round the world tour on foot/bike/boat. Constantly working toward a goal without damaging the body, because it is a loooooong way and you can not do this with the speed of a marathon. But it brings the best performance over a long period. But no, (almost) everybody thinks long hours are the cool/hard/peak-performance factor. In reality they are the stupid mistakes, bad mood, irritating behavior and friday afternoon crash factors. More coffee please, thank you.
It’s a question about what one wants. It’s either a game of who can keep the seat warm the longest or who performs the best. If I want the best performing employees, I should throw them out after 10 hours in the office and go home, too.
Now what about mail next guy Scott Souder? Every time I hear him, he is complaining about the email flood and his solution is mail next. Good show though, but not a solution for his sleep deprivation. The 10 PM mail from Kramer will still come and Scott will only find it faster with mail next.
How about a feature in mail next where mails from certain people only show up between 8 AM and 8 PM? Cool no? As long as the boss can override that setting. If I have one of my great ideas, I want that all my subalterns know that immediately and start working on it.

 

A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant – another book

Now this book is different from Cringely’s. It was written by Peter E. Greulich, an insider. He tells the story of the Watsons in IBM and the impact they had on a positive corporate culture. Something inexistent today, as the author believes.
While Cringely relies on information he can gather from the outside, Peter E. Greulich has worked for IBM for about 30 years in various positions, including management. He has many interesting stories to tell, but the essence of the book is his grief with IBM’s current situation and how it came to it. For him it started with the reign of the white knight in the person of Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. who at first was his hero. Later, especially after changing the retirement schema, he started to feel, that IBM was going in the wrong direction. With Sam Palmisano, it got worse. Management started to use rules and tools, that were either incomplete or not understood. As an example he recalls Tivoli Configuration Manager. At first a game changing product, but for the lack of continuous developement it became obsolete.

The development director said, “TCM is a cash cow. Why should I spend money on a product that is nothing but pure profit?” He believed that products in this market were commodities with low margins, and should be left to others to waste their profits on. We never convinced him otherwise.

The cow in “cash cow” is quite a good example for this. When you got a cow you have still to feed it and you have to look for a replacement – its offsprings normally – while the profit you make with the milk, pays also for growing (cash-)cow. But until the old cash cow becomes a poor dog (meat loaf), it is the duty of the product manager to push the poor dog as far in the future as possible. In the software business that means constant upgrades and enhancements and at least some marketing, until nobody has any new ideas (good ideas that is) to keep the milk flowing. By then, the rising star should be ready to take over and eventually become the next cash cow. That’s the ideal world and it does not always happen but still, Just abandoning a product, just because one thinks it good enough right now, without having the next thing in the drawer, is rather short-sighted.

The other story was with “Lean”, even so he does not mention the word. IBM used Toyota’s “Lean” initiative in a perverted kind of way. The real “Lean” wants to free resources by using everyone’s knowledge to eliminate inefficiency AND augment quality. The idea is not to find ways to fire people but to free resources to use them better. That’s one of the main principles of Lean, not to fire people. Greulich recounts how he lived through that time, when more and more of his friends disappeared and how that hurt his and others work. Key people were “resource actioned” (fired), because that department just had a quota to fill. It works exactly like Microsoft’s performance management. If you have a bad quarter, you are a goner. Does not matter, if your family just died in a train crash. Or in other words, if you had Einstein, Newton, Curie and Pauli on your team, Curie probably would have let go, due to her morning sickness and the resulting slightly lower performance at 7:30 AM. With that IBM became even more inefficient and the quality dropped. To make up for the loss, IBM bought more and more other companies for a lot of money, only to bluewash and crush them. Small example: Nitix. Developing their own products ahead of time with freed resources from a proper Lean program, could have saved and made IBM billions (in the case of Nitix, IBM once had a lot more Linux developers). But that would have cost shareholder-value. Now that’s bad, if the friends at Wallstreet don’t like you anymore because you don’t fill their pockets enough. It might be a wild guess, but if you look a the prices IBM paid for some companies and the number of products that after a few years are still alive, one gets some doubts about that strategy.
This kind of senseless loss of manpower (today: knowledge drain), did not happen 20 years before, when Greulich had a hard time himself as a single parent with three small kids. His friends at IBM and his manager just helped him through this time and he is forever grateful. First, it did not hurt IBM, because the work got done anyway and second, Greulich committed himself even more. If that isn’t a win-win situation? And don’t tell me that isn’t possible today. Many companies all over the world show that you can prosper and accepting a social responsibility.*
The numbers are also different to Cringeley’s. According to Greulich, for every old IBMer (in the US, Europe and so on) let go, three to five Indians or Chinese developers were hired and still they can not match the quality and therefore the speed of the old team. Not even financially that makes sense. As a side note, many big european companies in-source again. Even Apple starts to build computers in the US. Do they probably know something IBM does not? None of all those companies do that because suddenly labor costs dropped below China’s, oh no, they do it because it makes sense financially. More money in the long run!

Worth a read? Definitely. It does give you a point of view of somebody inside. Cringely looks for sensation (that’s his job) and Greulich is just sad. Somewhere in the middle lies probably the truth, but all in all, the pictures match.

A View from Beneath the Dancing Elephant
Rediscovering IBM’s Corporate Constitution

by Peter E. Greulich

* One of the best example came from the union representative at Porsche during an interview at Le Mans. You can be nice to your workforce and demand that extra effort if somebody wants to work for Porsche. That’s the view of the “Betriebsrat“! In early days the enemy inside, today an important asset to the company. No wonder VW wanted one for their american workforce, because it pays off.