January 25 2009
There's a ton of analyst and blogger coverage of Lotusphere, and I can tell that it will take me days to digest it all. In this morning's reading, I'm contemplating the different viewpoints of these two analysts.
Ferris, "Lotus Symphony--Hard to See Why It Will Succeed":
There are reasonable arguments that Symphony will do well:Burton Group, "Lotus Symphony: Looking to Go Beyond Playing Catch Up":
* The recession will stimulate interest in cost savings
* Microsoft competitors such as Google increasingly validate the notion of using free or almost-free technology
However, we doubt Symphony will suck oxygen out of Microsoft's Office market.
At the moment, Symphony acts as a wannabe to Microsoft Office, with a few things missing, such as VB Macros (that feature is coming). If Symphony were just that, it wouldn't be that interesting--true, it could save you licensing fees compared to Office, but that would be all it does: it would improve the bottom line but not offer increased productivity for information workers.I actually agree with both to some degree. Symphony, as it exists today in its 1.2.x version, is a status-quo alternative to desktop productivity. Market feedback has been universally positive -- we have won press awards in the US, Spain, China, Australia, and many other markets; had over 3 million downloads (and this past week was quite a week for Symphony downloads); and have published our first references and early adopter customers. The tight UI and integration amongst the components, as well as simple features like the built-in export to PDF, win easy praise -- especially given the no-cost price tag. That it is backed by IBM is hugely important to those customers, along with the long-term roadmap and commitment.
However, IBM Lotus is becoming a bit more outspoken about their future plans. ... The interesting one is number five: Beyond Office is the idea that Symphony should become part of an ecosystem that makes composite documents, similar to what the DITA standard allows for technical documentation. And guess what--IBM is the company that pioneered DITA. So given the company's DITA heritage and IBM Lotus' declared strategic plan, over the next several years Symphony should become a much more capable, interesting, and productivity enhancing product.
In some markets, that's all we need to do. In China, for example, moving to Symphony is a choice between paying for a legal license of something formerly used without a license and getting something equivalent without having to pay anything. It's no wonder there has been so much success for Symphony there, as well as on the Linux platform. This increases IBM and Lotus brand awareness and helps further pressure the commodity nature of office productivity. Did anyone notice how Microsoft reported a significant decline in Office revenue in their latest fiscal earnings? They try to mask it as a consumer issue, but remember that many small and medium businesses procure Office through OEM hardware bundles, too. The market is recognizing that paying the Microsoft tax for desktop productivity makes no sense. So whether the alternative is Lotus Symphony, OpenOffice,org, StarOffice, Google Docs, Zoho, iWork or anything else, to me the opportunity for choice and flexibility in this space has never been better for the customer. If IBM's presence in this space with Symphony helps open minds and close wallets to the idea that there are alternatives to Microsoft Office, that's a good thing.
In the long term, though, Burton's Guy Creese understands our body language correctly. What we're ultimately looking to accomplish is to open this market to the idea that desktop productivity is ripe for innovation. Today, that innovation is blocked by the Microsoft hold on the space. Once we get past that, IBM and many, many other vendors can start to deliver true innovation in helping users be more productive with documents. Our labs and research teams have tons of great ideas, and we highlighted many of these at Lotusphere last week. Even more will start to come to the fore in the future, and we can all expect to benefit from that evolution.