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Friday, 16 January 2009 13:45

IBM's Jonathan Stern outlines Lotus collaborative and social software strategy (iTWire podcast)

In this podcast interview, IBM regional executive Jonathan Stern gives an update on the Lotus communication and collaboration products. Lotus sales are on a roll, not just for the re-architected Lotus Notes and Domino 8 but also for enterprise social software offerings and the popular free Lotus Symphony office suite.

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Traditionally the last part of January is a focus for IBM Lotus Software group, and it's no different at all this year with the 16th annual Lotusphere 2009 user conference starting next Sunday in Orlando, Florida.

IBM is due to present its financials for 4th quarter 2008 results in a few days. In light of the gloomy  world economic outlook, it will be very interesting to see how they compare with the 2008 third quarter results which showed revenues from software at US $5.2 billion, with Lotus Software increasing 10 percent year-on-year over 2007.

Readers of iTWire may have noticed that I'm a Lotus Software fan, in fact have been since discovering Lotus Notes in 1993 the year after taking up retirement from IBM. (There was a big exodus of Aussie IBMers at the end of February 1992, when IBM Australia wanted to slim down and offered a voluntary separation package that was quite appealing.)

When I first came across Lotus Notes (a few years before IBM acquired Lotus Development Corp.) I  realized at once that it had some very unique and compelling client-server architectural features. So  compelling, in fact, that I decided to concentrate my efforts in that field as a "diversion" after several decades having worked with host-centric IBM mainframe and midrange systems.

Here's a brief history of Notes and Domino if you're not familiar with it. Originally there were Lotus Notes clients that connected with Lotus Notes servers.

But in the mid 1990s (at the time of Release 4.5) when Internet capabilities were added to the server component this was thought to be so significant that the server was rebranded as Lotus Domino. Remember, this was the era when Bill Gates and Microsoft had just come out with Windows 95 and Internet Explorer, after realizing that the Internet as the "next big thing."IBM's Jonathan Stern.

For the record, I should disclose that I'm still active in among other things the Lotus Notes collaboration and groupware arena (see here for example).

Let me start with some background, so that you may understand the Lotus terminology used and get better value from this interview with IBM's Jonathan Stern, IBM ANZ Executive for Lotus Software.

But these days Lotus Software is about much more than Lotus Notes and Domino. Lotus now offer a number of other increasingly popular collaboration and social software products, including:

  • - IBM Lotus Quickr -- easily set up browser-based team collaboration software for sharing content and collaborating with your teams, inside or outside your organization.
  • - IBM Lotus iNotes -- Web-based e-mail software and collaboration applications (quite independent of Lotus Notes and Domino)
  • - IBM Lotus Connections -- social software for enterprises
  • - IBM Lotus Sametime -- integrated presence awareness, instant messaging (IM), e-mail, telephony
  • - IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte -- Web conferencing client and services
  • - IBM Lotus Symphony -- a free  office suite for document, spreadsheet and presentation creation.

Based on OpenOffice, but with various functional and usability enhancements added by IBM, Lotus Symphony has been heavily downloaded and has garnered very favourable reviews. For example, CRN named it their 2008 Product of the Year for Desktop Applications. See also IBM's Lotus Symphony proves it has what it takes to compete in the dog-eat-dog world of productivity application software.


Many organizations have regarded IBM Lotus Notes to be just a glorified e-mail and calendaring system (and many users thought that graphical user interface rather kludgy compared with that of Microsoft's Outlook).

But the Eclipse-based Lotus Notes 8.0 client enabled a vastly improved look and feel to be introduced, together with modern application capabilities flowing from the Eclipse platform capabilities (such as adding Google Gadgets and other widgets to your Notes desktop).

Just last week, at Macworld on 6th January 2009, IBM announced the availability of Lotus Notes 8.5, not just for the as before for the Windows platform but also for Apple Macintosh OS X Leopard-powered computers. In addition, IBM announced that the free Lotus Symphony software will be available later this month for the Mac too.

IBM also announced new Lotus iNotes 8.5 software, which allows anyone with a Notes user license to access Notes through a Safari browser from anywhere.

iNotes allows the user to integrate the Notes calendar with Google calendar and also supports most standard widgets. One example of a widget is the mapping of a street address in an e-mail note.

Over the last several years, analysts have noted a resurgence in Lotus Software business. For example, in early August 2008 of Intranet Journal John Roling reported IBM Lotus Software Revenue Grows 21 Percent marking the 15th straight quarter where Lotus Software revenues had grown.

And Ivy Lessner of reported (also in August 2008) IBM's Lotus Gets Fresh Legs saying that "Lotus Notes was once the dominant software for corporate communications, until it was pummeled by Microsoft's desktop and communications software. Now the Lotus brand is springing back to life."

Finally, let me move on to the point of this article.


A week or two before Christmas last year, I was fortunate to interview Jonathan Stern, IBM ANZIBM's Jonathan Stern. Regional Executive for Lotus Software, but for a number of reasons (including a disk crash followed by days of painful data recovery, merging into the end-of-year holiday hiatus) I haven't been able to prepare the podcast before this.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Jonathan explained and positioned the various Lotus Software products.

Here's a timeline of the podcast (minutes, seconds):

  • - 00:00 ... Introducing IBM's Jonathan Stern
  • - 01:44 ... Lotus is all about collaboration and people productivity
  • - 04:43 ... Lotus provides the broadest range of collaborative capabilities
  • - 05:27 ... People generations and their adopted collaboration types
  • - 08:04 ... E-mail is not yet dead!
  • - 09:07 ... People-centric view of the world
  • - 09:45 ... What is Lotus Sametime?
  • - 10:54 ... Sametime and Web conferencing (virtual meetings)
  • - 11:19 ... Sametime versus the non-enterprise Instant Messaging clients
  • - 12:06 ... Convergence between Sametime and IP telephony -- unified communications and collaboration (UCC)
  • - 14:01 ... Community centric collaboration, Social software, Lotus Connections
  • - 14:54 ... People profiles, corporate directories (such as IBM's "Blue Pages"), the usefulness of bookmark links (a.k.a. "dogears"), the value of expertise location, blogs, wikis
  • - 19:05 ... Types of organizations that have taken up Lotus Connections
  • - 21:27 ... Lotus and the embracing of open standards
  • - 22:13 ... Cloud computing and SaaS (Software as a Service)
  • - 22:42 ... Web conferencing via Lotus Sametime Unyte
  • - 23:26 ... Lotus Foundations and IBM Bluehouse
  • - 25:41 ... Lotus Symphony, Open Office and Microsoft Office, document interchange capabilities
  • - 27:38 ... The massive take up of Lotus Symphony worldwide, and governmental mandates for use of ODF (Open Document Format)
  • - 29:01 ... The re-architecting of Lotus Notes/Domino 8.0 and 8.5
  • - 30:53 ... Lotus Notes 8.5 [released early January 2009]
  • - 32:06 ... User acceptance of Notes 8 modern look and feel

The audio file for this enlightening podcast with Jonathan Stern (the IBM ANZ regional executive responsible for Lotus Software) is available here (MP3 format, file size approximately 15.4 MB, duration 33:36).

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Tony Austin

Worked at IBM from 1970, for a quarter century, then founded Asia/Pacific Computer Services to provide IT consulting and software development services (closed company at end of 2013). These says am still involved with IT as an observer and commentator, as well as attempting to understand cosmology, quantum mechanics and whatever else will keep my mind active and fend off deterioration of my grey matter.

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