Well, after all the effort that went into confirming my registration, the least I could do was show up downtown today.

Before morning, I'll have three different versions of this trip report.  There's the blog version, the version I'm sending to the instructor and Microsoft with feedback, and the version I'll send around to my colleagues at IBM.  Hopefully I can keep the various audiences straight.

I think it was a little uncomfortable for all involved for me to be in this class.  The instructor, Steve Bryant, recognized me right away (though I have to admit, the same wasn't true in reverse -- he looks nothing like his SCA class photo).  At least one of the class attendees did, too.  Others seemed to squirm in their seats a bit when I introduced myself.  This led to my decision not to return to the class after lunchtime...the afternoon materials (a lot of Notes 101 material) weren't going to teach me much, though I'm sure the discussion might have been interesting.  It seemed to me that the class would be more productive for those attending if I wasn't there to inhibit conversation.  That's not the kind of competitive guy I am, and as such, I found a seat in the IBM mobility center (same building, different floor) and got some work done.

As for the part of the class I attended, it was the most critical 90 minutes of the agenda anyway.  This was the section where the market opportunity was explained.  It's important to note that Steve is not a Microsoft employee, and he seemed quite uncomfortable with some of the material he was asked to deliver in this section of the presentation.  Some of it was inaccurate -- not as inaccurate as Mr. Gates, but out of context, "spin", or downright incorrect.  Steve indicated he was willing to take feedback on this, in the interest of wanting to be professional and accurate.

The marketing overview section of the seminar was 90 slides long.  I assume they're not online anywhere as they were marked "Microsoft confidential".  It's visually interesting to note that there are two distinct sections to the particular PPT -- the analysis of IBM, which was basically bulleted text, and the explanation of the Microsoft strategy, which had flashy graphics, animation, builds, etc.

The IBM analysis section was, of course, interesting to observe from the perspective of the shoe being on the other foot.  I sat quietly and made notes; since Steve didn't create the slides, there wasn't much point in correcting him live.  I did cough a few times when a particular report was highlighted; this goes to a point I made a few weeks ago about how good Microsoft is at staying "on message", even when the message might not be considered credible.  I also was surprised at some of the supporting data points.  The assertion was made in the materials that more of the sessions at Lotusphere 2005 (83) were about Workplace WebSphere and J2EE, vs. 74 on Domino and Notes.  Putting aside the fact that this is incorrect analysis, it's also not necessarily meaningful.  There was only one session on Office Live Communications Server at TechEd 2005 -- out of what, like 1000 sessions?  In the case of Lotusphere, product maturity plays a factor, as do hundreds of other data points.  I don't want to do the math for Microsoft here and represent what I think the balance was -- for certain, though, it doesn't support their conclusion.

The rest of the day was a series of labs -- for some reason, I didn't think i'd get much out of the lab on installing the Lotus Notes client.  I did stop by again at the end of the day to see if anything interesting had come up.... unsurprisingly, nobody really wanted to talk to me :).  I won't be able to make day two tomorrow due to personal reasons, but Steve was kind enough to give me the materials to review.

Overall reaction on my part -- 1) Not really new material, just being propogated to a wider audience; 2) despite MS's general FUD that "nobody uses Notes anymore", every partner in the room worked with Notes shops, but 3) that means they think there is opportunity to migrate those Notes shops -- and some of them were quite vocal about that during introductions.  I don't know that there is really ROI in doing so, though MS's marketing slides tried to explain some of the 'business reasons' for a migration -- they were tenuous at best to me, but of course I'm a wee bit biased.

The bottom line is, the race is heating up -- as often happens in mature markets.  The good news on our side is that almost every analyst has come out post-Lotusphere endorsing IBM's Workplace vision and strategy, including how Notes/Domino fit within it.  There might have been opportunity here for MS partners while the message in market was less-than-clear, but now that IBM is on offense, not so.  There'd have to be one heck of a business case to spend all that money trying to use 14 products to reproduce the functionality of one market-leading, mature, complete solution..

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