Over the last two days of my travels, I've been asked the same question in three different settings: In today's market, why should an organization choose IBM Lotus over Microsoft?

Even with everything we know about the competitive landscape, when forced to boil it down to a short answer, I've given two reasons.

1) Flexibility.  In IBM's collaboration offerings, we provide a tremendous amount of customer choice and flexibility.  Solutions overlap in functionality, segmentation provides possibilities to deliver different capabilities based on role or interface, and we run in your IT infrastructure--not dictate it.  Microsoft, on the other hand, views the world through one-size-fits-all product interdependencies and forced migrations.  Guy Creese, an analyst with Gartner (formerly the Burton Group), called the Microsoft 2010 stack the "most complicated lock-in decision in years".   It is much more complicated to engineer products like Notes that have 20+ years of full forward/backward compatibility, and to run on six different server operating systems, and to ship feature releases every year instead of every three, but these are the investments we make so you don't have to.

2) People-centric vs. file-centric.  In Microsoft's world, everything revolves around the file as the center of the universe.  They are still not that far removed from a c:\projects\files\work\word\PP24RFPC.DOC world.  Office+SharePoint are all about how you create and share documents.  Even Outlook users love their ability to save an email message as a file so much that we were forced to provide a similar function in Notes 8.5.2.  In IBM's world, the person and their work results are the center of the universe.  Right click on a mail message in Notes 8.x, and the first menu choice is the human who authored the mail -- and ways to enhance your interaction with that human.  Sure, Lotus Connections can store file attachments, but the fundamental unit of measure there is a person -- with their activities and interests.  And in the future, IBM's Project Vulcan and Project Concord visions extend this thought further.   We didn't simply say we want to take a word processor/spreadsheet/presentation tool to the web -- we examined how we could make the act of using these tools more productive for the humans on either end.  We are focusing on the future of collaboration based on social analytics and a move away from the inbox, towards a much-more productive world of relevant content and information.

There are obviously many product-for-product (or cloud-for-cloud) places where I think we have many advantages over Microsoft or other competitors.  Distilled down, though, these two thoughts (one IT-oriented, one end-user-oriented), encapsulate the key differences for me.  What about for you?

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