Lotusphere 2010 : IBM Project Vulcan and thoughts I have not read elsewhere

January 25 2010

In an effort to not reproduce other thoughts out there, before I go on, here is some great IBM Project Vulcan reading for you: Nathan, Peter, and Volker. I don't agree with everything all three of them said, but they really cover the news that came out.

As with Peter and Nathan, I got a chance to attend the 60 minute "Nachos and News" event for bloggers. This year, instead of saving a specific announcement saved for the event (like last year's Traveler for iPhone press release), we got 60 minutes to ask about IBM Project Vulcan. A few thoughts that came from that:

  1. IBM Project Vulcan as it is today is not a bunch of screen shots (like IBM used for the Hannover announcement a few years ago). It is actual code. It might not be code you would implement in the real world, but it is code. Those saying that it is not code are the same people who couldn't be bothered to make it to the event.
  2. IBM Project Vulcan is really not just about a vision for the Lotus product portfolio. It is more like a vision for how they come together and interact. Think of IBM Project Vulcan as a much broader OneUI thought process. OneUI created a standard look and feel for IBM Lotus products inside a web browser. Lotus Connection, Lotus Quickr, Xpages, and more use OneUI. But OneUI never applied to the core Notes client - just web apps running in it. IBM Project Vulcan will establish a common UI theme, but also common features and interactions. IBM Project Vulcan is very much a super 'theme' for the Lotus portfolio.
  3. When asked about the implementation, Jeff Eisen went out of his way to not commit to anything specific. But he could see a time in the future when the Eclipse.org rich client version of the Notes client had webkit built in.
  4. IBM is also thinking about how it can make the client interactively from rich client to web client to mobile client as common as possible. That includes exploring ways to use the technology within HTML 5 to explore new ways to provide off-line functionality. I specifically asked about DOLS - and I was told to not limit myself to existing technology.
  5. Expect IBM to really push the 5 technologies they have listed as their future focus: HTML 5, CSS 3, WebKit, OpenSocial, and Oauth/OpenID.
  6. The biggest challenge of the development team will be how the rich client evolves. This will not happen in a single version of product release. People who are looking for IBM Project Vulcan to be Notes 9 will be disappointed in 2011.
Finally, I think IBM wants to find a way to innovate with new ideas, new technology, but not repeat it's mistakes. IBM Project Vulcan will not be a two lane highway. This is not about building something new, it's about transforming what IBM has today into something better. It's about taking multiple moving parts and finding ways to integrate them into one. It is about refining the current products, but also the usage patterns and user interface. IBM Project Vulcan is the roadmap for future versions of all Lotus products. It is the blueprint for the future. Customers can see the vision and direction - the FUD of the competition that IBM has not direction or future for the Notes & Domino product line should be more difficult with this roadmap made public.

I think IBM Project Vulcan was the smartest move IBM has made in years. I also think it was a gigantic risk. The Lotus core spent much of Monday asking 'is this 8.5.2?' or 'what version of Notes is this?' on Twitter and in comments. Others had no idea what to make of it. And if some version of Notes comes out and doesn't look like the screen shots we got last stage, various folks will make website posts comparing the pictures side by side - full of negativity. But IBM is taking the risk - and we will get to see how it plays out over the next couple of years. I can not personally wait for Lotusphere 2011 to see some of these broad-painted ideas flushed out into products.

I am going to write a specific blog entry on IBM Project Concord in the next couple days.