Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is IBM rebranding the wrong thing?

As many have said, Lotus, in name, seems to be missing this year at Lotusphere 2011.
Fair enough, it is just a name or brand after all, and not a product, as Ed has said numerous times.
Happens to be a very well known name, albeit one which, to some, does not have a good name when referencing certain software.

But what if IBM is rebranding/renaming the wrong things?

Changing Lotus to IBM Social Business Solutions,or something similar, is not really what you want to do with a name that is synonymous with collaboration, sharing and 1-2-3. True, probably few of the 500 students that Group brought to LS11 have a clue or even seen what 1-2-3 is, but the point is, the Lotus name does have a life of it's own, and for the most part is not only respected, but seen in a good light.

I propose that renaming Notes and Domino is really what is important. This is not a new concept or idea, many people have pondered why this has not happened, a la Quickplace into Quickr which provided a huge boost to a dormant program.

My discussions over the last few days show that the idea of renaming Notes and Domino is unthinkable...inside IBM. Certainly there are those outside who would balk as well. But the bottom line is the workplace times are what tarnished Notes and Domino. So why not rename them?

Will renaming Notes improve the IBM email numbers of Notes mail users? Possibly. I can't see it truly changing much from the estimated 25-40% of the market, depending on your source, it has of Notes mail.

Will renaming Domino change how Domino is viewed? I say Yes.
Potentially that has it's own price to pay as well.

Why is this?
Simply because Domino has always been, and quite possibly always will be, a niche application server for an enterprise or business.

And by renaming Domino to something that is more indicative of its role as a special server could make it a big winner against Microsoft. The efforts of Microsoft to cobble together a bunch of pieces and make that act almost like 1 Domino server does not work as a good model moving forward and because so many are tarnished by Notes & Domino this could change the tide. And of course there is all that licensing and CALs.

Should IBM drop the pillars, and the colors and the names for a monolithic, single, umbrella brand? No idea, but as has been my mantra the last few days, if IBM has data, and interprets it incorrectly, we all lose. But IBM has the most to lose, which is why, what you see, and what you hear, may not seem compatible to you. IBM may be struggling with this issue, and no doubt others as well, who can blame them?

Domino applications exist nearly everywhere within the Fortune 500 companies. Few argue this point to the contrary. So my guess is IBM feels that changing the umbrella preserves this perspective and does not kill any customer accounts or provide FUD for its competition.

Compare the above line to renaming the Domino name. This idea may lead to all types of mayhem on the customer front, something IBM and Business partners do not need right now.

There is no obvious answer.

If my previous post held a vision for IBM and how they see the future, should they not also be engaging what they are asking us to do for clients? Transformation can be painful, but the outcome can be beautiful, just like a caterpillar that comes out a butterfly.

No matter which path is ultimately chosen, one thing is clear.

Domino and Notes mail are not going away for a very long time. Yes, Notes may become a browser based client only someday, that is where the world is going obviously, but Domino will most likely out live many of us.

And there is nothing Microsoft can do about it...short of buying Lotus from IBM.


  1. I think the perception problem is much deeper than Workplace.

    Must people who believe they hate notes have never heard of Workplace.

  2. In general I agree with you. If the Notes Next makeover truly changes the look an feel of the client (that's what user touch) then give it a new name. In that case Microsoft would have a huge problem to explain to everybody that the new client is a new Notes - no a new old legacy application and only the look an feel changed ...

  3. I doubt that the rename QuickPlace > Quickr had such an effect on it. I think it was a combination of better/quicker product, more modern browsers available and more clues in the market what colaboration should about.

  4. @sean, yes, but IBMers think differently, this was written with some of them in mind. But I am also not going to say something I do not believe is true. I have been using Notes since version 2 and have no issue with how it appears.

    @christian exactly my thinking if Vulcan will bring it that way.

    @anonymous sorry but I partially disagree. Technology does not sell products. The product was on life support before getting renamed and obviously getting updated helped it as well from a technical perspective.

  5. I think that ultimately, the future of Notes/Domino is tied to Vulcan.

    When Microsoft rebranded DOS to Windows (even today, DOS is still lurking underneath Windows), they reviatalized their product line by "borrowing" the Apple GUI.

    This "rebranding" of product to Windows even triggered their sudden dominance of the spreadsheet market (from Lotus 123), because Lotus were late to release a Windows version of 123.

    Project Vulcan (or whatever it's current or future branded name) is an opportunity for IBM to do the same thing. Providing backward compatibility with Notes & Domino applications is just more icing on the cake.

    But whatever IBM does, people will buy or evolve into Vulcan if the Apps are there. And Dominop has a huge rule to play here.

    My only concern with Vulcan is the high cost and complexity of installing all the different back-end systems needed to support Vulcan.

    At least with Domino the install process could be handled by one guy in less than a day. I don't think they will ever achieve that same simplicity with the multiple back-ends needed to support Vulcan.

    If Vulcan is ever going to be available for the SME Market, the back-ends need to be much simpler to install and maintain, or perhaps this is why their Cloud offering is so strategic to IBM. Let IBM worry about the back-end, and just provide the Vulcan front-end to users.


  6. @Ian
    Bugger, I could live without domino administration. I would like to have everything just running on the click of a button. But I think, many companies just don't trust the cloud and if you read carefully through the license agreements of some hot cloud apps, you shouldn't. Can I trust IBM to keep Lotus Live highly available and who do I talk to, if my boss accidentely deleted his mail box (because he absolutely wanted admin access)?
    After the Foundations desaster it is imaginable that IBM just tells you one day: "Dear customer, we are shutting LotusLive down in 4 month". And there is one more thing. If you bought your licenses once, you have them. If your business has some cash problem some day, you don't have to pay for a service upfront. Your own box gives you more flexibility, but to run vulcan with all the bells and whistles, many SMB will be too small. The net effect could be, that IBM looses even more customers, because the product just does not fit anymore and they don't want Lotus Live. But since I also think Notes/Domino is a niche product, that could be a chance for a new start of the niche with a clearer view of the target audience.

  7. I had an interesting e-mail about this earlier this week. I'm frankly surprised that this has come up as a priority. Fix the product, then name it.

    I must also counter your claim that Lotus is remembered fondly. It's considered a relic by most people. And yes, I mean most. Virtually nobody knows the company still exists.

    @Ian W - DOS does not "lurk" inside Windows. Versions of Windows through Win98 and WinME used a DOS boot loader. As of Windows 2000 all editions of 32-bit Windows use an NT Virtual DOS Machine (NTVDM) to run MS-DOS apps. Anything that runs in the Windows Console is actually a 32-bit Windows application. It is not a DOS application. 64-bit Windows has never had NTVDM and can't run MS-DOS applications at all.

  8. @Ian yes indeed, but I see Vulcan more as Connections 4.x than Notes9. No question it will be part of it, but since much is unknown all we can do is speculate till later this year(hopefully something will be out before Dec 31).
    @Christian admin via button? Scary, but I hear what you mean. But then what would I do for fun?
    @Charles agreed, fix some stuff, then rebrand it. The Lotus name itself has high recognition, but in some circles they view it as a detractor.
    So instead it makes sense to change it all to a passing fad of a name for a year or 2 and erode any sense of consistency? That isn't a better solution.
    Don't know which or what will work, but I don't believe this is the right way for them to go right now and I believe some in/out of IBM see it as well this way.
    The beauty of being outside of IBM is I can posit anything without legal on my back :-)