Lotus Is Dead. Long Live Lotus

November 22 2012 01:00:00 PM Comments Disabled
Update: Apparently not everyone is aware of the saying from which the title of this post was taken. "The King is Dead. Long Live the King" is a positive statement, alluding to the continuity of leadership when the throne changes hands. With that in mind, read on...

Over the last few days I've had dozens of inquires about my thoughts of IBM removing the name Lotus from Lotus Notes and Domino, effectively putting to rest the Lotus brand name. Rather than respond to everyone individually, I figured I'd post my Lotus eulogy here.

I started with IBM in 1993 as a coop student working with Lotus Notes 2.1a and left in 2008 when I went to work at Socialtext. During those years I had the privilege of working with one the most significant collaboration portfolios of all time. Many people consider Notes the progenitor of all the "enterprise social" hype we are in the midst of today. Back then it was called Groupware, and I remember one of the original slogans, the 3C's: "Communicate. Collaborate. Coordinate." Oh how well that message still resonates. Over the years the Lotus portfolio grew, adding products like Sametime, Quickr and eventually Connections. I remember Carl Kriger and Jim Cavalier doing demos of Notes applications running on mobile devices (Nokias, Palm Pilots and Blackberry) more than a decade ago... long before the reign of iPhones and Android. I remember Gary Devendorf doing demos of Lotuscript as he created all sorts of collaborative applications. Gosh I remember when there were product managers not for entire product lines, but for specific features; like Sean Condon being responsible for Domino clustering and replication, two technologies that most products still can't duplicate today. I remember when iNotes first appeared providing web based access to mail, years before people were fighting for invites to this thing called "Gmail beta". Oh how ahead of the times Lotus was. Yes, I still feel the scars from the rants about Lotus Notes on Slashdot and the User Experience Hall of Shame. Yet so many applications today have tabs along the top to access content and/or use screens filled with icons to open applications... just like Notes. I guess "There's an app for that" has been around for a long time. No, I've not forgotten the missteps like Workplace, J2EE and the two-lane highway but today is a day to focus on the positives. I spend so much time in the "2.0 world" watching startups with these brilliant ideas... all the time thinking "Lotus did that a decade ago." Yes, Notes was (is) far more complicated than it should have been, but it really was a brilliant product. Thank you Lotus for providing me a great start to my career. I'll always remember you, and look forward to watching your descendants in the IBM Collaboration family carry on your mantra as expressed in poster below... "Helping people work together is what Lotus does best."

For anyone doubting IBM's commitment to the Notes product, I encourage you to watch this video on IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition, where they demonstrate the upcoming release.

As for my specific thoughts about the name change, I still stick with what I said at the beginning of 2011: "Years ago I talked about how I wished the brand names would go away completely. Finally the lines are blurring between the brands and technologies from each group are finally being combined. All the divisions of IBM are involved as social features are mixed with analytical tools, cloud storage, compliance and other management tools. So how do you name that? Die-hards in the "yellow bubble" can protest all they want, but I think the best thing for everyone would be to just call it all IBM software. That did not happen this year, but I think it is something everyone should expect at some point."

Reminiscing about Lotus caused me search out the response I posted back in 2008 to vowe's question "What would you do, if you were in charge of Lotus?" It's a fun read, I encourage you to take a look.

I'll leave you with a few items from the history book to enjoy.

I AM! (trivia, who drew the original poster?)

Lotus 50 Million Super Humans - 1999

Lotus 50 million Super Humans - 1999

Helping People Work Together Is What Lotus Does Best

Helping people work together is what Lotus does best