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.

5 Responses to “IBM needs to stop kidding themselves about Notes and ISV relations”

  1. 1) Rob McDonagh says:

    Well said, John.

    I am adopting a wait-and-see attitude, though, about how much Notes 8 helps ISVs. Are there really that many ISVs building eclipse components? I dunno. I hope Notes 8 helps, but I'm not counting on it for that the same way I'm counting on it to help win the eye candy wars.

  2. 2) Mikkel Heisterberg says:

    I couldn't have said it better though I would add the lack of phone synchronization software to work out-of-the-box with Notes to be a major issue as well.

  3. 3) Carl Tyler says:

    Yes this is a major issue, and it's all down to the way MS and IBM do business.

    MS has a policy of issuing toolkits prior to a product shipping and making MS developers use those toolkits to deliver solutions. IBM delivers toolkits sometime after they typically ship a product, so 3rd party apps are often late to the party.

    I was recently contacted by a friend that was doing some work for a large teleco that has conference scheduling etc. in the app they can click a button and bam the conference and it's details in in their outlook calendar, how did they end up doing it for notes, they ended up using the COM object and populating the calendar that way, as the usabilty tests they did stopped them from taking the ICS approach with Notes.

    The crazy thing about ICS is that IBM Lotus was on the standards board, they did this stuff in Organizer years over 10 years ago. As an IBM shareholder I wish IBM would use their collaboration and search tools to learn from what they have done in the past, and stop themselves from wasting money rebuilding the wheel every time. These usability studies have been done, but someone isn't reading the results correctly or doesn't care.

  4. 4) Bob Balfe says:

    I use Notes 8 at home and I do believe the .ics problem has been greatly improved. My wife sends me calendar invites all the time from the MAC iCal program. The issue I see is the email comes in, I import the ICS file and a new email is put into my inbox (the calendar invite). I then have to accept that invite.

  5. 5) John Head says:

    that is the same with Notes 7 ... when an email is sent to you. If Notes can, such as invites from Outlook, the Domino router will convert it to a meeting. I am talking about when I get a ics file from a website or some other software.

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