Some thoughts on the Lotus product line and their announcements at Lotusphere2009:
Lotus Notes & Domino
Lotusphere2009 was really the celebration of the 8.5 release. The OGS might have been anti-climatic since the product shipped the Jan 4th, 2009. The conference was all about 8.5, with DAOS, ID Vault, and XPages all over the sessions. We also saw LinkedIn integration coming in the client with a great sidebar app. Project Atlantic became Alloy, the joint project between SAP and IBM. We need to see more of these - official plug-ins or applications for integration or web 2.0 inclusion to the Notes & Domino product line.
I was expecting more Lotus Protector announcements but those did not come, but we got the big shocker of the week - IBM was working to add ActiveSync support to Lotus Traveler in 2009. This is a big move for IBM, providing an ability to allow certain devices COUGH iphone COUGH to connect to the Domino server. It will be interesting to see how this works out in the end.
Lotus Foundations announced the Remote Office edition (1.1), allowing for the Foundations server to be used as a remote Domino server, including full support for an existing Domino Domain and certifier. Great news for the SMB customers of Lotus AND enterprises that want an all-in-one solution for smaller remote offices.
One of the biggest announcements of the show as Lotus Sametime 8.5 and the new meeting center. Sametime 7.5 was the complete modernization of the client, Sametime 8.5 is focused on the Meeting Center. A killer web client that requires no java or plug-ins to be installed and what looks like a Rich Client meeting center as well. I heard many of the Sametime customers who build third-party tools get really excited about the new APIs and extension opportunities, but the new Meeting Center server will be built on top of the Websphere Application Server platform (like Connections). Sametime IM will continue to be Domino server based. How will Sametime customers respond?
Sametime Unified Telephony was a big hit this year as well. The user interface is amazing - dragging names to the web conference and having them appear on the phone was one of the killer demos of the week. I was less excited when I heard that making SUT work will require IBM software, hardware, and services. Are people really willing to do that? I want SUT to get out in the marketplace and see how this plays.
There is also an updated client for the Blackberry and a client coming to the iPhone.
Lotus Quickr seemed to have a quiet Lotusphere2009. We heard about Lotus Quickr for Domino 8.2 and the future versions of 8.5 and Next. We know the Wiki and Files services that are coming to Lotus Connections 2.5 will be shared with Lotus Quickr. We heard about some new features like lists and more that would put Quickr better head to head with Sharepoint. All of this is great news, but seemed to be overshadowed by the Connections and LotusLive news. I also heard a lot of people wondering why IBM did not announced that the J2EE and Domino versions were being combined. When I hear that I am always surprised. I know that Quickr for J2EE is a great release and works great with Websphere Portal, but I never see it in the marketplace minus a few larger customers. Quickr for Domino is not going anywhere and IBM confirmed that. We also got news of a Blackberry Quickr client coming from RIM this year!
What everyone should be excited about is that Lotus announced XPages support for a future version of Lotus Quickr for Domino. What that really means remains to be seen, but I think it will be a great boon to Quickr custom development.
IBM pulled the wraps off Lotus Connections 2.5 at Lotusphere2009. Microblogging (ala Twitter), wiki, and files are the three big new features coming to the product, along with lots of refinements to communities and the home page. What I noticed about Lotus Connections is that customers were really starting to get past the fact it was a new product & platform. Unlike previous products (a.k.a Discovery Server), Connections is heading into it's third release and has no sign of going away. The updated Connections client for the Blackberry looks amazing. I can not wait to have that. The iPhone client for Lotus Connections looks great as well.
The biggest announcement of 2009 at Lotusphere2009 was that IBM Bluehouse was becoming LotusLive Engage. A new name, a new interface, and a slew of new features. A total for 6 offerings was announced:
- LotusLive Engage
- LotusLive Connections
- LotusLive Meetings (based on Sametime Unyte)
- LotusLive Events
- LotusLive Notes (the previous Hosted Notes offering)
- LotusLive iNotes (hosted iNotes)
With these offerings, IBM gets both feet in the water into Software as a Service (SaaS). How will they compete with Google, Microsoft, NetApps / Oracle, and the other offerings is what 2009 will bring. If IBM can make this whole idea of "Click to Cloud" a reality, which brings SaaS services to the existing Rich Client, this will help traditional users embrace this new method. IBM also needs to market the hell out of the fact there are no ads on the screen - and no data mining.
Lotus Symphony not only got out of beta in 2008, but shipped three versions (1.0, 1.1, 1.2). 2009 will bring Symphony 1.3, with Office 2007 read support, updated Data Pilots to be more like real Pivot Tables, and the first release of the LotusScript API. Symphony 2.0 will update the core code base to the OpenOffice 3.X trunk, support ODF 1.2, enable the running of VBA macros, and bring the ability to save to the Office 2007 file formats.
2009 will be a big year for Lotus Symphony as customers look for ways to cut costs.
Lotus Mashup Center
I was not able to spend much time reviewing the Mashup Center product at this Lotusphere, but I heard nothing but good things. I also saw many of the Innovation Lab solutions using Mashup Center as a source for integration. I think problem is that Mashup Center is above the heads of the traditional Lotus Customer. I know its a great growth area, but Lotus really needs to connect with the old school, tree hugging Notes customer and show them how Mashup Center can help them. Where is iWidget support in DDE? Where is iWidget and complete support for Mashups in the Notes Rich client? Lots of unanswered questions.
Funny enough, the biggest news of Lotusphere2009 for Websphere Portal was the new Yellow icon. Portal is one of those products that customers love or hate. Partners either do Portal or want nothing to do with it. Portal is not going anywhere and still best of breed. It will be interesting to see how the LotusLive SaaS offerings are tied to Portal solutions in the future. That could be a killer connection for the product and IBM.
Lotusphere2009 was full of announcements and news. Every product got some level of news, with LotusLive being the major news of the week ... along with that little announcement about ActiveSync. For me, seeing things put into action are what get me excited. The bloggers were given a demo of how Xerox was integrating their software and copiers with Lotus Foundations that just blew us away. For one of the demos, they took a document which had three tables on it. They scanned it, and based on preferences setup for that user, it opened on that person's client. It opened in Notes as an editable Symphony spreadsheet. Jaws dropped around the room and the quote of the week came from one Nathan Freeman ... "That is just %&^*ing awesome!" Yes it was.
If I had to find anything negative to say about Lotusphere2009 around the product announcements is that we did not get much news about Notes & Domino Next. We heard about 8.5.1 and some of the features coming in sessions (like Directory Independence) but nothing about the next major version. 8.5 is a killer release but we need to hear about the "Next Big Thing" when were spending $2,000 to attend Lotusphere.