Saturday, January 30, 2010

On App Stores, Notes Home Edition, and Open Source Notes

I was helping my sister-in-law setup her new PC the other day, and checked the basic installation of Office she had ordered.  I was surprised to find that Outlook was included even in this entry level version of Office.  Yes, MS is great at getting Outlook in the hands of as many end-users as possible.

It got me thinking about how Lotus could get Notes in more end-user hands.  I mentioned in my last blog entry that part of the challenge Lotus has in the market is that where people know about Lotus (is that 1-2-3?), a significant problem is that consumers have outdated perceptions of Lotus software.  Getting Notes in the hands of more end-users could go a significant way towards eliminating this perception.

There have been a number of blog posts this past year in the Yellowverse that have touched on different ways Notes could be consumerized.  There have been suggestions that Lotus make Notes available via open source, suggestions that they put out a "Personal Edition" of Notes, and passionate lobbying for Lotus to open an app store.

Now, I'm not a fan of Lotus putting Notes into open source.  Face it, Lotus does not sell an operating system that bank-rolls all of its other software development.  Lotus needs the revenue from Notes to stay in business. But I do think that Lotus should make available a free Personal Notes client.  Huh?  Didn't I just say Lotus needs to keep it's Notes revenue?  Yes, it can do that, and still make a free Personal Edition.  Right now, Lotus does not get revenue from home users, so they lose nothing by offering a free version of Notes to that market.

But how could Lotus get Notes into the hands of home users?  Here's my thought, Lotus should steal a page from MS and put a Personal Edition of Notes within Lotus Symphony.  Lotus says that Office tools are a commodity and should be available for free.  Well, the market leading Office software considers its email client part of its Office suite--so much so that it is a part of its entry level offering.  Doesn't it follow that Lotus should view an email client as a commodity and include it with Symphony?

Of course, this would require some modifications of Notes--I'm sure many recall the incident last year of a blogger bashing Notes when he tried to install it at home without a Domino server.  Frankly, even Ed Brill admitted this is a problem, but I don't think it is as big of an issue as some make it out to be.  You can get Notes to pump mail into the 8.5 mail template with offline IMAP, and when you do, it's a great Notes 8.x experience.  BUT, it's not straightforward to do right now, and that would need to be addressed.

There could be many advantages of to bundling a Personal Edition of Notes with Symphony.
  1. Get Notes in the hands of more end-users, and combat the image of Notes as legacy software.  When you see and use Notes 8.x, you can't really hold that view.  It is cool software.  What other email client lets  you easily deploy cool widgets to improve your productivity?  Or even more impressive, connect those automatically to text recognized by Live Text?  You all know the ways that Notes shines, I won't go through them all here.
  2. Collapse Notes & Symphony development.  No need to maintain two separate code-streams under development--one for stand-alone Symphony and one for Notes with embedded Symphony.
  3. Provide an attractive market for a Lotus App Store.  I'm a strong supporter of a Lotus App Store.  Getting Designer out there for free was a huge step in the right direction to make Notes a more attractive platform for developers.  But what developer will care if the development tool is free if there is no market for their applications?  A Lotus app store that has  all of the corporate installs of Notes/Domino out there, plus several million users of Symphony would provide an attractive market for developers. And we all know that customers are less likely to migrate away from Lotus Notes when they are leveraging the platform for applications.  We can say that Notes is more than email--a vibrant App Store environment would demonstrate that in spades.  Customers would not have to have in-house development skills to take advantage of the application capabilities of Notes.
  4. Make hybrid LotusLive for even the smallest clients. Lotus has had web-based applications for some time.  But anyone who used to use Quickplace knows what a huge time-saver and improved value came with the introduction of the connectors in Quickr.  The Connections team had the same realization.  As we rush to push customers to the cloud, let's not forget the lessons learned from these other products.  Don't make end-users go to a web-browser to use the services from the web-application.  A Personal Edition of Notes would make an attractive up-sell to LotusLive services.  Users could could pull their mail down, use the embedded Sametime client, connect to activities, and maybe at some point, pull down their calendar data as an overlay like you can with your Google calendar in Notes today.  Lotus could even put a tickler in Notes for users to sign-up for a trial of LotusLive from the Sametime and Activities areas.
OK, but how does Lotus do all of the above and NOT kill their Notes revenue stream?  Why wouldn't customers just use the free version?  Well, the current Notes CAL licensing is for attaching to Domino servers.  Keep that in place.  Any user that wishes to connect their Notes client to a Domino server will require a Notes CAL.

Hmmm, was this the motivation for switching to the CAL licensing model in the first place? Has Lotus been planning to offer a Home Edition of Notes all along?  I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Lotus Knows the Secret Ingredients to Great Pancakes

It was another great Lotusphere, and though many have already given excellent overviews of what was presented, I wanted to throw my 2 cents into the pot as well.

I had my five minutes of fame on Business Development Day during a short video that had a series of clips about things people don't know about us.  Alistair Rennie shared his proficiency with a chain saw (Alistair, when your done using that on MS, I have several trees in my orchard that need attention).  I shared my secret ingredients for Banana Chocolate-chip Pancakes, and was stopped several times on Sunday with comments like, "Hey, you're the Pancake Guy!"   Took me back to my younger days flipping pancakes at my Dad's diner.

Here are several things that stood out to me during the conference, some of which I'll dive into further in later posts.
  • Bob and Alistair.  First, a big thank you to Bob, and congratulations to Alistair.  I appreciate the edge Bob brought to Lotus, his willingness to directly take on MS, and his ability to bust through old ways of doing things that had become impediments to moving Lotus forward. AKA, "We can't do direct Lotus advertising, IBM doesn't do that."  Alistair has a long history of doing great things in Lotus--under his leadership, we've seen some major Cool brought back to the portfolio. I'm looking forward to his wit and sarcasm directed at the competition.
  • LotusLive.  It had a lot of attention at the conference.  That team has come an amazing distance in a very short time, and they have some great enhancements around the corner.  I'm convinced Lotus' "hybrid" approach to cloud computing will win in the market.  Not all users should be in the cloud, and even for those that are, not all functions should be accessed solely through a web browser.
  • Lotus Knows.  I have been so excited with the long overdue introduction of Lotus-centric adds that actually mention Lotus products by name!  That said, I've been somewhat disappointed that the content of the ads has not included visuals and video of the products in use.  A negative brand image is still rampant, and that largely has come from the outdated user interface of 5.x - 7x Notes.  Combating this image problem will require eliminating those old mental images.  But good news is, data from early test markets was overwhelming positive.  Now, will IBM act with the urgency needed to flood the market with this campaign?
  • Foundations.  Wow, amazing partner solutions being built on this platform for small businesses.  As if Foundations wasn't amazing enough with its instant collaborative infrastructure in a box, now you can get a complete VOIP platform with add-ons from ShoreTel, and impressive electronic document capabilities from Xerox.  Of all Lotus' efforts, this has the potential to move the market and impact perceptions.  I hope this is the year that Lotus gets aggressive with this solution.
  • Vulcan.  My first reaction was, wow, this is a rich client for Lotus Connections.  It did give me thoughts of Google Wave, but unlike Wave, the concept is far more practical.  I have to confess, I'm not much of a Facebook user, but my wife is, and I can see the value of connecting to others in this medium.  I can see the focal point of the "inbox" shifting to social networking as more and more users are connected this way at home.  But more than that, the interweaving of social networking, traditional mail, analytics, real-time communications and seamless premise and cloud elements really is exciting.  
  • Collaboration Agenda.  I see a lot of value in this approach for many customers.  It delivers targeted business value leveraging the full breadth of capabilities in the Lotus portfolio.  Now my concern.  This is a slow process, and by its very nature, can only touch a limited customer set.  It limits the reach of an already constrained sales force (compared to the competition), and worse, it puts the sexiness of the technology in the background when the biggest problem with the brand is its limited exposure and outdated images of old Lotus software.  I continue to be amazed at the number of customers I see wasting money on migrating away from Lotus during the worst econonmy in any of our lifetimes.  It shows that market acceptance of collaborative technologies is not driven by business economics.  Irrational as that sounds, its born out time and time again.
Well, there is my 2 cents.  I'll rub 'em together with a few more reflections on the conference, and maybe have a nickel when all is said and done.  Now, for the pancake recipe!

1 banana
chocolate chips
2 cups Aunt Jemima Instant Pancake mix
1 1/2 cup water

Mash banana in mixing bowl until liquified.  Add instant pancake mix and water, and stir.  Warm your non-stick skillet over low heat.  Put five tablespoons of mixture on skillet, and gently spread out in a circle.  Drop chocolate chips in circular pattern around pancake and dot in center.  Gently press chips into batter, and spread batter over top of the chips.  Wait until batter bubbles, and flip pancake.  Makes 8 - 10 pancakes.


Monday, January 11, 2010

CDW Customer Reception at Lotusphere

CDW will again be hosting a customer reception at Lotusphere this year.  The reception will be held on Tuesday evening, January 19th.  If you are a CDW customer and will be at Lotusphere, feel free to email me if you'd like to attend (  Seating is limited.  If you can't make the reception, but would just like to touch base at the conference, please feel free to email me as well.  Looking forward to next week!  See you there.