August 15 2007
While I was on vacation last week, Alan gave some visibility to a "what is the future of Notes" discussion on LinkedIn. A few days later, it's worth taking another look at the end-result of that question and subsequent discussion.
There's a typical two-camp dichotomy to the responses posted on LinkedIn. There are many, many responses in support of Notes and its future. There are dissenters who are in the "end is near" camp, though they are in two buckets as well -- 1) one-line flame trolls, and 2) Microsoft employees.
When I read the positive responses, what struck me the most was the diversity of the backgrounds of the people who commented. Unlike many of these online debates, it's not like a posse of edbrill.com (and other blog) readers jumped in with a fanboy mindset. True, many of you posted, and I certainly appreciate that. But it's not just "rah rah". The overall tone, and substantiation, of the pro-Notes comments is based in business trends, technology trends, and real-world comparisons. As another plus, a number of the positive comments come from names I've never heard, from all over the world. That seems to be a strong validation of the Lotus strategy. Anyone looking to support Notes-related decisions can point to this discussion and feel like there's a broad range of support for the product going forward, in a variety of industries, around the world.
The negative responses are striking in their contrast. There are half a dozen people who think it's cute or funny to post "what? there's a future?" kinds of comments. I am sure they realize that this just makes them look foolish, in a venue that is associated with their own individual name brands. In fact, it's probably unsurprising that most of these one line zingers are posted by independent consultants.
Then there are the Microsoft comments. There was no challenge in the original question, nor in most of the comments, that asked for a perspective versus Microsoft, but that didn't stop the spin patrol. Cliff Reeves echoed some logic from his own weblog that the number of job postings in the UK market for Notes/Domino vs. Exchange+SharePoint is somehow a marker for the entire software ecosystem. This is the very same market where ComputerWeekly just highlighted Notes and Domino as "Hot Skills". I think there are a myriad of ways of looking at job postings, and they are one, but not the only, indicator of an ecosystem. Since Exchange and SharePoint have new releases out in the last few months, perhaps it makes sense that there are some new jobs related to them out there. On the other hand, you can see other indicators of more jobs for Lotus Notes than for Microsoft Exchange, such as on indeed.com.
But the pure spin award goes to Jim Bernardo, who even brought that spin here to comment #24 in Alan's prior posting about the linkedin question. Now, for background, here is what Bernardo wrote in comments here on April 23, 2007:
Whenever I'm asked questions about the direction for Notes, or what I think about where IBM is taking Notes, Ed, my answer is ALWAYS "You should get your information about IBM's product plans from IBM...you shouldn't ask me," and that's the answer that I think most ex-Lotus folks here will give when asked. When I'm asked why I left, I'm honest about it, and make it clear that my reasons were just that, MY reasons... We would never try to answer the "what's left" question, since, as you point out, we're not in a position to know.Yet Jim's posting on LinkedIn doesn't hesitate to specualate on the people, the product plans, and the strategy.
On the people, Jim says,
"the vast majority of the people who had the gray matter around Lotus Notes...the people who built that product...left. They left not because they didn't want to work at IBM, but because IBM didn't want to continue Notes."Presumably, this is meant to say that those who are building the product today don't have any "gray matter" around Notes. There's several problems with that statement. First, there are still (and again) people working on Notes today who were there at the beginning. Many of us who work on Notes today have done so for 10+ years. It shouldn't matter, though; there are more people working on Notes/Domino today than any prior release, and they have an impressive amount of combined "gray matter". That is all that matters, and I am quite certain that there are long-time Microsoft products that no longer have the people who built the product working on them still today.
On the product plans, Jim says,
"Notes is a fully depreciated asset inside of IBM, and not the most significant driver of IBM's profitability."Hmm. True or not, why is this relevant? And how would someone outside of IBM be an authority for that data?
Jim also seems to think that
Notes 8 represents an effort by IBM to do what they could not do with their adventure in the wilderness called Workplace...and that is to bind Notes customers to WebSphere, DB2, and Tivoli. ... IBM Software's biggest assets, and stickiest technologies, are those built around the WebSphere family of products...believing otherwise is naive at best.It's a great spin, but not particularly connected to reality. Notes/Domino 8 don't require any technology from any other brand across IBM software. They are separate product lines. There are integration opportunities and entitlements, but, unlike the Microsoft one-size-fits-all approach, there are no hard-and-fast ties. Choice and flexibility are the key to the Notes/Domino story, not forced migrations, new hardware, and single architecture solutions.
Last, both Jim and Tony Ollivier seem to feel that if IBM isn't building new products tied into Domino, it must mean Domino isn't "strategic". The reality is that new products are indeed being built with open options -- use any directory (we happen to have one from Tivoli, but it's really an LDAP story), use any database (we happen to have one from DB2, but it's really a SQL story), use a variety of application development tools for Eclipse-based clients. These products and capabilities can be integrated with Notes and Domino, but don't require them. Why is that flexibility a bad thing? Why would tying other IBM products to proprietary models of the past be the way to show "strategic" intent? Isn't it more obvious to see "strategic" intent based on the direction forward of the product in question? Notes/Domino 8 speaks for itself, and the next version will have even more investment across-the-board, including moving forward on the Domino application development roadmap.
Bottom line: The vast majority of the reasoned, eloquent responses on LinkedIn resonate as clear endorsement of the future of Notes/Domino. Readers are advised to apply the correct filters, and get their information about IBM's product plans for IBM and its customers.