In the last couple of months, I've spent a fair bit of time digging into the market and opportunity around the Notes/Domino application development tools, and specifically XPages. What I've learned is that there is a ton of passion and energy around XPages: book sellouts, workshop sellouts, customer case studies (though we need many, many more examples), forums, OpenNTF contributions, etc. In one of our recent internal tracking studies, 65% of existing customers indicated awareness of XPages.

But we have a long way to go. Google "Xpages" and you get 225K hits. "Ruby on Rails" gets 10 million (not that I'm trying to make a direct comparison, just a magnitude one). There are gaps in functionality and documentation. Most importantly, we have to drive from 65% awareness to 100%, and build adoption from early stage to mainstream.

I view XPages as a major vector to grow the market around the Notes/Domino family in 2011 and beyond. Others include LotusLive Notes, the next release of Notes/Domino and its incorporation of IBM Project "Vulcan" concepts. For the near term, though, the opportunity to increase adoption of the Domino server technology through XPages seems like a good "white space" to pursue.

One question I'm grappling with is whether the opportunity is more important initially to pursue that expansion through corporate in-house developers or through ISVs. Obviously I want to do both, but in terms of resource allocation and focus, I think I need to choose one. My instincts say that the answer is to focus on ISVs, and through them, grow the market.

While I was in Germany the week before last, I had a great conversation with Mr. Stefan Sucker, the CEO of Bremen-based IBM business partner We4IT. I had never met Mr. Sucker before, and we had a great conversation about We4IT's Business Solutions products. It turns out that We4IT had invested in turning their products such as We4IT VacationManagement into XPages applications, and at CeBIT last week, they even announced mobile tools to bring the application data to mobile devices (also accomplished via XPages).

I asked Mr. Sucker whether he thought there was an opportunity to sell their solutions beyond existing Notes/Domino customers. He indicated that they had had some interest, especially since the apps don't necessarily need or rely on a customer adopting any other aspect of Notes/Domino. I think this is increasingly common with ISV solutions built on Domino, e.g. IdeaJam and the other Elguji products.

To me, the next natural-but-provocative question after that is whether we all would see more opportunity if there were a different way to sell Domino into non-Lotus customers, e.g. an additional server product/license in market that perhaps was branded solely IBM rather than Lotus. I believe the answer there is yes.

In short, I'm thinking about ways to expand the market for XPages applications. I think the answer is to put more short-term emphasis on making ISVs successful, which in turn will increase demand for the skills and expertise in the overall market, which in turn will lead to more interest from corporate developers adopting the ISV solutions. This is not to say I wouldn't continue to invest in efforts to help increase corporate adoption of Xpages, I just think that the ISV route has more opportunities. In Korea and China, for example, Domino is frequently a platform for office automation (OA) solutions. If we could move a few of those ISVs to XPages (and maybe some of them have moved already), would that be more impactful than a few more internal app case studies added to the pages of ibm.com?

I'm still learning this market space. It's clear we have opportunity. I want to make smart decisions. In a choice -- and I want to make it clear, if I am going to go about this I have to choose to prioritize one or the other, I don't think my team and I can successfully run both paths simultaneously -- should we run after ISVs or corporate developers?

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