Big Blue’s Sphere

by Dave Michels

LotusSphere is an odd name for an event about non-Lotus software. That was just one of the themes from IBM’s (presumably last) LotuSphere 2012, that it is killing  the Lotus brand. Not that the show is dying – it’s a huge show. IBM has slowly been distancing itself from the name/brand Lotus – and replacing it mostly with IBM: IBM Notes, IBM Symphony, IBM Web Content Manager, Domino?, etc.

Moving away from Lotus intrigues me. Officially, the message is ‘out with the old.’ That the brand is associated with legacy. Really? How did “Lotus” get dated when “IBM” didn’t? IBM is associated with mainframes – Notes is  associated with Groupware. Which is more social and modern? I never understood why the “Notes” server  – which had a great brand – became the Domino server. I understand products have life cycles – but brand cycles should last much longer, and I think Lotus had some value.

The strangest part is IBM really needs a brand to wrap around its family of social products. There are a heck of a lot of products in its social strategy – some new products, but mostly renamed products and services.

IBM Connections is the anchor product, but don’t commit that to memory because it is going to change to Connections Next. It’s where you are supposed to go for your ‘river of news,’ email, calendar, collaboration, and other communications. That sounds simple enough, but it isn’t as it requires all those communication components to be be compatible with Connections. I think IBM wants you to use Lotus/Domino for email and calendar, but they stated 60% of Connections users use Exchange. LotusLive, which is changing to SmartCloud for Social Business, includes email and calendar (I think).

Here is the list of key products to IBM’s (brandless) social strategy:

  • Lotus Connections/IBM Connections/Connections Next
  • Notes/Domino
  • Notes and Notes Social Edition
  • Sametime
  • LotusLive Meeting
  • IBM Docs formerly known as LotusLive Symphony
  • Symphony
  • Some third party for voice – preferrably integrated with Sametime.
  • LotusLive Cloud relabeled as SmartCloud for Social Business

Within most of the products and services are numerous options and SDKs. They are even bringing to the social arena a fairly analytical view that includes (Cognos) analytics. IBM paraded numerous customers on the LotusSphere stage repeatedly endorsing the virtues of IBM’s social vision. IBM’s own internal social transformation is impressive with about 10% of its payroll now blogging.

For documents, it used to be Symphony, or Symphony Live (hosted), but now it is IBM Docs which is a brand new version 1 product optimized for collaboration.  It was made clear IBM will embrace/tolerate Exchange and Office customers, but would prefer to assist in assisting customers reduce their annual payments to Redmond. In all this shuffle, it seems Sametime got demoted – so much that IBM might be giving Sametime the Lotus treatment – and backing away from it.

IBM has this broad social vision – and it is impressive. But the menu of ingredients is complex and contains several non industry leading components. The current buzz in UC is around collaboration and mobility. For collaboration, in addition to the social appraoch, IBM Docs is new (not a name change). If you want to embrace IBM’s vision for mobility – stock up and save on these products (as outlined by Michael Finneran)

  • Sametime Mobile Client
  • Lotus Notes Traveler
  • Tivoli End Point Manager
  • Lotus Mobile Connect
  • WebSphere Mobile Portal Accelerator
  • WebSphere Mobile Portal Experience

IBM wants everyone to know there’s gold in them thar connections, but it isn’t yet clear if the gold is adopting a social enterprise or selling the tools to one.

IBM is also selling a vision that includes the cloud. Numerous aspects of its social strategy are available as a hosted option. But that’s second to social. The social enterprise is certainly cutting edge vision, but is it real?  IBM isn’t alone in thinking so – Google, VMware (SocialCast),, and Yammer all agree. So does Facebook and Twitter for that matter. You have to admit, when you look at that list – a list of innovative, anti-establishment companies – IBM seems a bit out of place.

Isn’t IBM still largely associated with big iron mainframes and related services? Aren’t those mainframes associated with inflexible IT departments of yesteryear?  Obviously the company is active in various aspects of  desktop computing, but primarily at large organizations. Isn’t the new paradigms of social and cloud computing about flexibility and consumerization? Will this sea change come from the Fotune 500 or innovative upstarts, or both? Isn’t IBM selling to IT when we hear repeatedly that IT buying decisions are decentralizing into LoB units?

These questions reflect that IBM has more heavy lifting ahead. Though don’t underestimate IBM – this is a very large and profitable company that has lived through bigger transitions.


LotuSocialSphere (UCStrategies podcast)

IBM Lotusphere 2012 – Socializing ‘Social Business’ (UCStrategies)

Lotusphere: IBM Puts Meat on the Bones of Its Social Strategy (NoJitter)

My interview with IBM CTO Charlie Hill weeks before LotuSphere  (NoJitter)

IBM’s Social Agenda (CloudAve)

Lotusphere (2011) (TalkingPointz)