IBM needs to stop kidding themselves about Notes and ISV relations

July 12 2007

Today I read something that made me react so strongly I had to write here about. I read a comment that Volker Weber wrote on Ed Brill 's blog. And I found something I completely agree with.

With email, c&s, contacts I also see other reasons, to name only one: ubiquitous support for Outlook/Exchange in mobile devices or CRM applications

Volker is 1000% correct. IBM has had their heads buried in the sand with this issue for years. Sales says its an ISV issue. The IBM ISV team is so focused on Anti-virus and Backup that they forget the other stuff. There are so many companies out there that have products and software and have no or horrible support for Notes. Cardscan, Plaxo, LinkedIn, OpenTable, and the list goes on. They have Outlook importing and/or synching right on their pages. These products even build Outlook integration points that bring the two close together. None of that for Notes. This is hurting and causing IBM to lose Notes customers. I have personally witnessed this.

Let's look closer at one area that is 100% the fault of Notes. Calendar invites that I get from the web. Let's say I want to invite someone to lunch. Since Ed is in Chicago, I decide I want to invite him out for Sushi.

I go to OpenTable.com, select a restaurant, a time range and it gives me back some options. I fill out my info, add Ed's email so he gets an invite, and click OK. Once the reservation is made, I have a chance to add this to my calendar. Oh, wait, my OUTLOOK calendar. But let's click this link anyway ...
  1. I am prompted to save a file. The file has an extension of .ics. Being a technical guy, I know this is an ical format file. How many real users know this?
  2. So I go to my Notes calendar, and I try to drag and drop the file to create a new invitation. Nope. You can not do this.
  3. So I go to File | Import. Ah, there is an option for "Calendar File (*.ics)" in the Files of Type drop down (which, by the way, is not the default when I am in a Calendar view ... ugh). I select that, select my file and click OK.
  4. Instead of seeing a new Calendar Entry pop up, I get a dialog that asks me to type in a calendar name. I can click a check-box to see more info, but it doesn't display everything in the ics file .. just a time range and the invite name ... no location, etc. I give it a name (I have too .. it will not let me import it without one .. and that name is never used as far as I can tell).
  5. I then have to locate the new entry on my calendar, open it, and there I can see all the info.

I have to do this so I can set the Category ... because categories are one of the only ways to manage lists of calendar entries in Notes. Yes, I know, we can not use categories in the Calendar like we want too ... or subscribe to calendar subscriptions. That is another blog.

Now, if we did this with Outlook being the default mail client,if I clicked the link on OpenTable.com
  1. it would open a New Appointment, fill out all the info, and puts it into edit mode.
  2. One click and everything is saved into Outlook.

So, which do you think people prefer? And how hard would it be for IBM to make Notes be the default calendar application on your machine and associate with the .ics and .vsc and .ical file types?

Yes, I know Notes 8 is a huge improvement in the user interface. And Notes 8 will make it easier for an ISV to build applications that integrate with the core UI of the client. But IBM still can do so much to make this easier for everyone. Here is what I would like to see IBM do for 8.0.1:

1. Fix the icalendar problem mentioned above
2. Fix the 'my notes client is locked so it ignores all requests from activation from other products' problem
3. Get the ISV team working with the end-user, Web 2.0 and fancy gadget companies to include Notes and Domino support for their products ... and announce them at Lotusphere.

Seeing as how I am ranting, and I hate to rant without having some attack plan on how to solve the problem, I will tell you all this. I am doing everything I can to get a couple companies to integrate with Notes 8. More info on those when I can talk about it. Sometimes, you just have to stop waiting for others to do something and do it yourself.