The IBM loss of University of Nebraska - the missing piece of the discussion

July 6 2011

There has been a bunch of discussion about The University of Nebraska dropping the use of their in-house IBM Lotus Notes implementation and deciding on a cloud based solution. Tom Duff was the first to write about it on PL, and Palmi Lord wrote about it.  It seems that Google and Microsoft were the only two players in the game and that Microsoft 'paid' U of N $25,000 to get the deal. I say 'paid' because giving incentives to close a software deal is what every software company out there does. That part really does not bother me. We should stop focusing on that.

The university issue is a big one, but not what worries me. It seems that Google and Microsoft want to fight it out for the education and not-for-profit spaces with the lowest possible prices. I have never seen IBM play at the low end. I realize people in that space will disagree, but I think that space is outside of IBM's comfort zone, even if we had the marketing backing of the IBM Collaboration Services products that we all dream about.

What worries me most is that University of Nebraska seemed to be a hot bed of research that used IBM technologies. Anyone remember the two students who won Lotusphere Idol in 2009? Nate and Matt were from the University of Nebraska. I remember Brent talking about how he was working with a professor there to get more people involved, during their college education, working with Lotus technologies. This migration will impact that.

I am not a fear monger. I do believe that people will use tools other than their daily email platform for research and education. I also think that once someone is hired, they use the internal platforms far more than they don't. But this is one of those cases where I think the long term game was worth IBM going in and making a strong economical case for the University of Nebraska to keep using IBM software.

I am and have always been a fan of IBM Lotus technologies and that will not change. But I really think it is time that we take a hard look at the software products in the ICS portfolio and see how they integrate with Google Apps, Microsoft 360, LotusLive, and IBM Connections. It pains me to say it, but I can see a day where the Notes client is not longer the leading product in terms of strategy and sales. With all of our cross brand experience, maybe this is a place PSC can lead and help the community. Something for me to think on.

7 Responses to “The IBM loss of University of Nebraska - the missing piece of the discussion”

  1. 1) Roy Rumaner says:

    it was more like $250,000 not $25,000. Significant difference in the grand scheme of things.

  2. 2) Thomas Duff says:

    @1 But given the size of the deal, it's still minimal, and it gets lock-in to a large degree.

    John, I'm glad you picked up the point on the two students who won Lotusphere Idol. It's sad that a showcase example like that will end up fading away.

  3. 3) Chris Miller says:

    Also left out is that IBM (Lotus) used to play very heavily in that academic space before disbanding the Lotus Academic teams back in early 2000's. Once the team that handled the academic sites were gone, the licensing then changed and it continues from there.

    Gone are the days the Lotus booth was at all the academic conferences pushing the collaboration. Connections would have been a great sales piece. Even Sametime.

  4. 4) John Head says:

    @Roy yeah, your right, I got the $ wrong, but it doesn't matter. MS didn't write them a check. They gave them incentives. Every software company, including IBM, does this. I have a Notes customer that juts got the same treatment from IBM for them to stay on the platform.

    @Duffbert - thanks

    @Chris - I think that IBM's culture right now is about R&D instead of education, IMO. I think this is an attitude shift that happen years ago. And it can change again. Just my view of the status quo.

  5. 5) Dan Soares says:


    Yep... actually even in the late 90's. The SUNY consortium used to have a HUGE Notes deployment. Notes was big at SUNY, Stony Brook where I worked in the mid 90's.In fact I think you worked with Doc Watson at the School of Nursing to help set them up initially with Notes. They still have a DL based Nursing program written entirely in Lotus Notes.

    Rumor has it that Stony Brook is abandoning Notes and moving to Exchange too.


  6. 6) Nathan T. Freeman says:

    I think most would agree that there's a certain amount of delibrateness (to coin a word) to IBM's brush off of the academic community as users. As I've said before, Google and Microsoft treat students as future CUSTOMERS, while IBM treats students as future EMPLOYEES. This makes all the difference. IBM executives pursue relationships with schools to create developers on the IBM platforms (which means focusing on CS and IT programs) while others want to create experienced users on their respective platforms.

    The IBM strategy is more command-oriented, while the Microsoft/Google strategy is more democratic. Dare I say, it's more SOCIAL -- in that it recognizes that broad, shallow, bottom-up familiarity with a technology will drive its future adoption rather than narrow, deep, top-down knowledge will.

    IBM treats universities and enterprises as cathedrals. Google treats them as bazaars. And while IBM's approach works just fine for the cathedrals of today, eventually all the people in the enterprise cathedral will have grown up in the university bazaar. And it'll take the next 100 years to recover.

    Assuming nothing changes, at least.

  7. 7) Keith Brooks says:

    The Notes Client has not been the leader for a while if you think about Sametime, Connections or LotusLive.

    That is sad because Nate and Matt one would think would have had some glimmer in an IBM eye but I think we are all adults and realize where the road is going and Nathan is quite correct in his read. IBM has always favored the technologically intelligent side over the day to day life.

    If IBM had never bought Lotus, IBM would still not have any customer facing products.

Leave a Reply