The Microsoft competitive trick of the month is to ask Lotus Notes/Domino customers to ask IBM for our "five-year roadmap" for Lotus Notes/Domino.  One account was even told to go to Google and type in "Lotus Notes roadmap".  I'm not sure what's so sinister about that, since one of the top ten hits will get to my Lotusphere 2009 presentation which includes a roadmap for the future.  It's not like going to Bing and typing in "Microsoft Exchange roadmap" brings solid responses:
Image:What would a five-year roadmap really look like?

Still, I hate to give Microsoft any ammo to use their tired false logic against Lotus Notes.  The facts make this easy -- IBM has shipped new feature releases or maintenance releases every single year since 2002; in the same time, Microsoft shipped two feature releases and a point release, each of which has required a fundamental rip-and-replace migration of servers, operating systems, or even data.  I'll hold my track record of delivering innovation and value up against Microsoft's any day of the week -- and doing it in the only approach in the industry that allows for full customer control over when/how/if to adopt new architectural features and manage interoperability.

So I have been thinking of writing a white paper over the holiday season that addresses this concept of a five-year roadmap for the future of Lotus Notes and Domino.  The reality is, some of it would be informed conjecture.  This industry moves too fast for anyone to put solid bets on exactly where the market is going in five years.  If we look backward five years, IBM had not yet announced the "Hannover" vision for Notes -- announced in May 2005, delivered in 2007.  Clearly we had some thoughts about "Hannover" in 2004, but we were able to deliver more quickly than a five-year innovation cycle would have required.  Looking back reveals much more about what wasn't on the radar in 2004/2005 -- the explosion of public, worldwide social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook; new application development constructs now used in XPages; mobile devices such as, oh, the iPhone; and increasingly ubiquitous connectivity.

In other words, a five-year plan is an outmoded concept.  It was invented in the 1950s and 60s in a series of nation-building exercises, at a time when the world was not hot, flat, and crowded.  It's never been a successful model in the modern era of client/server, desktop, or web computing, and it makes even less sense as cloud computing increases in importance.  There's always been a double-standard here -- Microsoft constantly asks customers to ask IBM about the future of products like Notes while remaining tight-lipped about the future of products like Exchange -- but I don't mind playing the game to shut down the attack vector.  It'll be good timing to publish something after Lotusphere, anyway.

The question I want to ask before I start writing is, what would a roadmap white paper say to you that would matter?  I'm not likely to be able to commit to version numbers or specific dates, based on IBM's interpretation of Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance thoughts (we don't want you to make a business decision that relies on our forward-looking statements, it isn't good for either party).  I can certainly talk about concepts, themes, what my colleague Mr. Peters has in mind when he waxes poetic, and anticipated trends.  

Beyond that, though, the future is anybody's game.  That's why most "roadmap" whitepapers from vendors, including what I'd likely write, spend a lot of time emphasizing the here and now -- we know that there are always customers whose needs are met by what we ship today, and that there are more prospective customers who could use the same.

Let me know what you think.

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