Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Lotus Software, met with senior writer Cathleen Moore and test centre analyst P.J. Connolly to discuss the future of Lotus' collaboration technology within IBM.
InfoWorld: How does Lotus plan to breathe life into what critics call a dying product?
Goyal: It is more our competition than our critics who are saying that. But we did not have at the beginning of last year a story that we could prove was the right story, so some of what they were saying was sticking in the marketplace. That is why I categorically made the statement (in the opening keynote that Lotus would not abandon Notes and Domino). Nothing could be farther from the truth. What we are saying is, "you have been in the client/server technology business, it has delivered value to you, it will continue to deliver value to you, but we cannot move forward if you remain in that box."
We need to be able to put new network-based technologies in Notes and Domino, what I call "federating the link." Notes becomes the client-side portal for Notes users so it can access applications from Domino, J2EE, WebSphere, and even non-IBM packaged apps. By federating that link, we are improving the reach and the power of the collaboration that Domino had and the power of collaboration that Notes had, while continuing to maintain the investments that have been done in the Notes and Domino applications. (Customers) are staring to feel very comfortable that we have a path for them and they don't have to move from Notes 6 or 6.5 to some release of Workplace.
InfoWorld: How does Lotus Workplace fit into IBM's On Demand computing initiative?
Goyal: We are the human interface to On Demand. People perceive that an organization is responsive when they feel it through the interface. In a call center, when a customer gets a response faster with a better answer, they think this organization is responsive and they are satisfied. Behind that you need to integrate processes, data, and information. (Lotus) is the human interface of the On Demand strategy because we are the user interface with portal, workplace, or collaboration. Whether you are doing call center, customer portal, or Sarbanes-Oxley reporting we are the interface to that. To be an On Demand organization is to have processes integrated across the silos so you can have much faster response.
InfoWorld: Is Lotus working on an ASP model of Notes?
Goyal: It is very clear to us we are in the software not the services business. But we need to enable products so service providers can have offerings and give customers a cost structure. We are enabling partners and other service providers (to offer an ASP version) because we don't want to be in the hosting business.
InfoWorld: Do you see Oracle Corp.'s Collaboration Suite as a competitive threat?
Goyal: Oracle is a big software producer and they have presence and many customers and they have access to many more customers, so they will be competition. But if you need security, the functionality, cost of ownership, road map to the future, and collaboration applications (there is no direct comparison). It is no longer about e-mail and IM. Those are nice-to-have technologies. It is about how organizations collaborate across the enterprise to be productive. That is organizational productivity. We will compete yes, and we will win as many as we can.
InfoWorld: Why should a company buy Notes/Domino/Workplace or move from Exchange or another competitor to Lotus?
Goyal: There are a few important reasons why they are (migrating from Exchange) today. First, many are doing it because of security, whether they want secure Web-based messaging or secure client/server messaging. Second, because of platform choice or flexibility: Very few do server consolidation, which is a big thing in the industry, on NT. They do it on big Unix servers or mainframes or other big servers, not NT. When they do that they need a messaging system. In what we provide, you choose the platform and we run on it. Third is total cost of ownership, also called performance and scalability. And I am starting to see one more kind of change. There are customers who are starting to think about what kind of end-to-end architecture they will have in their enterprise. They say, "My direction is X and I want an open standards-based infrastructure, I don't want to be tied into a box. I want the openness and flexibility (of an) end-to-end architecture, therefore I choose you." Very few times we see a function/feature battle now.
InfoWorld: What did you mean when you said in the keynote that it is necessary to move out of the Notes/Domino box?
Goyal: There is a trend in the marketplace that says (customers) want network-based technologies, (not) client/server technologies. If we did not offer collaboration in the network-based technology world, those customers who want it will go somewhere else. (So) not only (do) we have to offer the technologies people are used to and maintain that franchise, but we must produce world-class, network-based collaborative capabilities. If we try to retrofit them in Notes/Domino and force people to purchase only Notes/Domino and not let them purchase the portal- or Web-based technologies, we will hurt our business.
InfoWorld: One of the loudest cheers in the keynote was for the demonstration of a complete Notes application running in the Workplace client. How will that happen and when?
Goyal: We did that as a technology preview. It is live code that we showed. It assures people that customers (can) move forward in the network-based world with the Web-based client and collaboration platform. They have millions of applications which have been written using Notes Designer or Domino Designer. What will happen to them? Are we going to ask them to rip and replace? The answer is no. (Notes and Domino applications will) run unmodified in the Workplace client. They can be on the Workplace client world and they can have the Notes apps they so love and continue designing Notes apps the same way and it still runs in this world.
But I disagree (on) what brought the biggest applause. The biggest applause was when we announced (Version) 6.5.1, that we will have a consistent release of all products integrated and supporting all platforms, because it is the biggest nightmare for our customers that (they) have to integrate our products. That is what Notes/Domino was meant to be. We somehow divided them up into pieces and shipped them as shrink-wrapped products.
InfoWorld: What will come after the rich client?
Goyal: IT organizations have been struggling with the desktop management cost (associated) with all the client/server deployments they do. Every desktop has to be touched whenever you roll out any version of the technology. Time after time we have seen (with) an app or technology built for deployment over the Web that deployment costs are much lower. The question we continue to ask ourselves is, "How can you get the rich client capability of the traditional desktop with the deployment characteristics of the Web application?" There exists no programming model in the industry for doing that. At Lotus we chose to take the leadership on that by creating this new programming model, which is the app that is delivered and the Web app in the browser can now get the rich content without changing the application by creating a few plug-ins at the client side. But it is all deployed as Web app; you don't have to touch the desktop.
It is time we address customer issues with the PC-centric programming model. It is a PC-centric programming model that says you need to update your PC and operating system every time you have to move forward. This is a huge change in the industry that will happen over the next two to three years. And the start will happen now with the Workplace client announcement and the new programming model announcement. It is more seminal than just another technology, or IBM has shipped another client. It is a fundamental change in the way apps will be developed. The industry will like it and vendors will have to struggle with it. -- InfoWorld (US online)
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