Lotusphere Announcements – First Impressions

I must admit – I was a little bit dissapointed. Not only because of a guest speaker I never heard of before. I knew there will be no “big announcements” this year, but the big questions for me on this monday mornings at Lotusphere are: How will the announcements affect my business, how will the new products and solutions make my customers more happy and give me new business opportunities. I still can not see this very clear.

Anyway. The key message still is: Collaboration becomes more and more the number one issue for CEOs/CIOs. The mobile work force is growing fast, today 70% of all employees work on different locations from their boss. So supporting tools for the mobile workforce are the new challenge for companies – and this is the mission of Lotus software. So far so good. We heard something about the paradigm shift from document centric, people centric work to community centric services. We heard the well known story of CEOs kids using facebook or new employees entering our business environment who used to collaborate as students via wikis and miss these tools now. Its young people, its the the tools people use in their private life that drives companies today to implement social software solutions. But still lots of the arguments behind that “external pressure” remind me of the good old knowledge management discussion 10 years ago. Some of the arguments can be found in K-Station flyers Discovery Server announcements from the last Lotusphere Europe in Berlin – “the end of search, start discovering,…”. I don´t want to say thats wrong, but this is not revolutionary. We just now have different tools to harvest, manage, distribute knowledge inside the organizations. And this is a good message.

Anyway, this is what I took away from this years opening session:

  • Mobility: IBM and RIM announced a strategic partnership. Didn´t they last year? No clear communication whats really new about that. Lotus Traveler? Still Windows Mobile only. iPhone? In a world where there are not much applications for the iPhone available an Mobile Notes application would have been great. But what we get is a tailored Domino Web Access for iPhone. Cool, but I would say useless at least as an argument in Europe today.
  • “Atlantic”: SAP and IBM announced another strategic partnership. As with RIM I wonder why there is no clear communication in the OGS about the difference to last years announcment. OK, the SAP CTO Dr. Vishal Sikka appeared on stage. But a travel expense application that works witha SAP backend and a Notes frontend was shown last year too. I know there is more about that partnership and I am looking forward to learn more about it.
  • Widget Support: Widgets integrate into Notes 8 now. Looks very cool and easy to use. The LiveText feature parses the Notes documents content, gives you context sensitive information e.g. flight number will be highlighted and you can directly access current flight status, adress information will open google maps, stock information shown when stock symbol in text, etc. Very cool, love it. My customers will love it too.
  • Domino Web Access: New light version that loads fast. Looks very good. But why choice for a fast and a slow version?
  • Notes 8.0.1 on Ubuntu: Probably the most important news for my company because we are running more and more workstations on Ubuntu. Official support for Ubuntu is great and made our CEO happy today. Notes 8 on Mac is in public beta now. Great news too.
  • Domino 8.5: Lots of improvements, like better performance, enhanced ID management, and space saving. Space saving? Space savings through central storage of mail attachments with duplicate control. Single Copy Object Store revisited? Hopefully not, and hopefully it can be disabled.
  • Domino Designer 8.5 will be delivered on Eclipse. The Lotusscript class browser was the only moment today in the morning when some guys in the session really got excited. Easy to create Web2.0 apps now. Web 2.0 style Notes discussion database demo. So there is hope for all that ugly designed web interfaces of old notes apps.
  • WebSphere Portal: I am not in that WebSphere Portal business, but what I saw looked cool, in fact a little bit Apple like 😉 People seemed to be happy about the news.
  • Lotus Connections / Lotus Quickr: Lots of improvements in the UI and tighter integration of both products. Media file support, podcast support, tagging, rating, commenting, many nice to have update and lots of absolutly necessary updates. I am happy to see that many issues have been adressed. Quickr 8.1 will come in March and opens up not only to Filenet or CM8 repository – the open connector framework should enable partners to integrate many other ECM solutions. Lotus Connections comes now with Facebook, Socialtext and other integrations. Not really an issue for my customers, but nice to have. More important: Lotus Connections replicates and synchronizes! I need to take my activities with me offline. Now I even can take it with me on my mobile device with an own Facebook-like Blackberry Connections application.
  • Lotus Protector: Obviously one of the late outcomes of IBMs ISS acquisition. Security appliance. Do not expect my customers to buy this. Probably only intersting as part of the Lotus Foundations bundle.
  • Lotus Symphony: Still I don´t know if we can position it as an alterntive productivity solution for OpenOffice (I am not talking about an alternative solution for MS Office, because Symphony definetly IS an alternative). But today it become more clear. Its the programmability and integration into Eclipse that makes the difference. In Beta 4 we will see Expeditor integration, some SmartSuite features, new APIs. So ist more than an alternative to MS Office, its an alternative to the .NET environment. Customers ill not only save money by not paying to MS Office, they save money because they can change the whole platform. I like that idea.
  • Unified Communication: Sametime celebrates its 10th borthday now! They demoed the new telephony integration, and I want to get my hand on it asap. Set phone rules in properties, status sensitive call forwarding. Great! When I am in a meeting, forward call to assistant. When my status is “away”, forward to my mobile. When my boss calls, forward to voice box. Cool. Have to visit the UC2 keynote tomorrow morning.
  • Lotus Mashups lets you build … of course: mashups. Looks very easy to use. Lets you combine internal and external sources of information. You can easily wire widgets and build new composite applications.
  • Lotus Foundations was announced yesterday at Business Development Day. Today it became more clear that this is really a bundled set of products, ready to install within 30 minutes including collaborative services, file management, firewall, backup solution, etc. Reminds me of the artist formerly known as Ben Hur aka Collax Business Server. Low price, easy to install and administrate, easy to use. Mike Rhodin pulled a fully configured Lotus Foundation server out of an envelope ala MacBook Air. A fully blown Small Business Server in an envelope. Eat this, Microsoft/Apple! 😉 There will be hosted version at Lotus Bluehouse. Have tried to register, system failed. It seems IBM want to sell Collaboration as a Service like others sell CRM as a service (Salesforce) or will sell ERP as a service (SAP). But whats in there for us as a business partner?

So this is it for me now. Just talked to Ed Brill about some of the announcements not communicated very clear. All in all not the big news with lots of excitement this year, but many very usefull new features and opportunties. Now lets look under the hood the next days.