I admit, I wasn’t invited to that ominous call, but what I have heard and read the last few days, made me think. I have not read anything, what was actually told in the call, only what wasn’t.
Let’s get a few facts together. It looks like IBM is making money with software. But which product, I don’t know, but certainly Notes is not the product where IBMs hope is lying in the future.
I said it before. It’s a cash cow. A good one, probably. IBM follows the text book what to do with a cash cow. At the same time, they are building up a rising star. Today I would say, it is Connections.
Lotus is a brand that has turned into something people don’t like too much. Therefore kill it. Makes perfectly sense.
Interestingly, the discussions, especially on vowe’s site, turn technical pretty fast. In short, many of us think (that is, the heart of the community), Notes is a dinosaur, too big, too slow and too old and we would like a revolutionary new toy. Something that wasn’t here before, but it should be backwards compatible with all the old Notes apps. Forget it. Will not work (I like Mikas idea, rewriting it in Fortran, hihi). CouchDB could have replaced the nsf files. IBM owned it and certainly thought about it, but did not make the move. Wonder why?
If I was a developer at IBM for Lotus, I would also say, let’s do something else. You can’t endlessly fiddle around with the same stack and IBMs promise to guarantee backwards compatibility, is a very bad heritage. It is almost impossible to change the nsf engine. That thing is over 20 years old. Why do you think M$ is never doing in place upgrades? They can’t, because the new product is always too different from the old (and they wouldn’t have a reason make the customer paying big money again next time).
If IBM is not completely stupid, Connections could be the new Notes. But to achieve that, IBM can do a few things, to help Partners to move and build up the new community.
1. Make it easier to install. In this aspect we haven’t evolved. We still need to install an OS before installing the application. How silly is that. Why can’t IBM include a optimised Linux server. Would help a lot and even give IBM a lot less headache in supporting the darn thing. Throw it on a Collax V-Cube (or other KVM based virtualization system or even hardware) and start it up. Makes customers happy (the M$ affectionados can continue to install it on their own). IBM knows how it works. The smart cube does just that (that’s were LF ended up).
2. Make it available for small companies, too. It can be a useful tool for anybody. Limited version for free? Good idea.
3. Add a simple mail server to it (or is it already integrated?) IMAP, MAPI(?), WebDav should be there.
4. Train us IBM. The whole lot of us. Everybody who has a Notes certification should be trained for free (LOL, I can’t even get XPages training in Switzerland)
5. APIs, APIs, APIs … if possible even for Cocoa and Ojective C (and Fortran for Mika). I want an app for that.
6. … and for all those Notes customers. Integrate the XPages server and a transformer license
7. Mobile, mobile, mobile … even limited offline capabilities would be good. I mean apps, not browser, btw.
8. Don’t make a fat client. Let the community write apps, but build support something like OpenNTF.
IBM you would have a new community in a blink of the eye. Will they do it? I have my doubts. There isn’t a business process for thinking out of the (In-) box (I still remember that marketing pitch).
We have seen in this episode again, how badly IBM communicates. We all remember the times, were we felt valued and respected by IBM as business partners. It hasn’t been like that in the recent past.
I think, the big ones have more luck, but Notes partners are on the lower end of the food chain now. Imagine, Group is the biggest and has just over two hundred employees and makes 20. mio € in turnover. 99% of us are not big enough. Therefore we fell out of the focus of IBM. Logical no?
Now lets get our grips together and evolve. Let’s move. We will be lucky, if we get any help from IBM, but there is no question, that in 5 years, many of us will have moved to other pastures. If IBM likes us, they will try to keep us, if not, you know, how much they cared about you, but don’t get angry at IBM. It’s just a strategy that maybe isn’t that bad.
BTW: I wouldn’t bet on Exchange and Sharepoint. Those are as antediluvian as Notes. There is still life in them, but they are hardly very innovative (even less than Notes). Don’t go there. Too many players already. I would bet on Apple and Linux right now.