Cloud Computing, Customer Wins, Microsoft Bashing Will Be Key at IBM Lotusphere

What should you expect from the 16th annual Lotusphere conference coming up Jan. 18 to Jan. 22? Lots of cloud computing talk and new customers on stage. IBM Bluehouse extranet SAAS service, Lotus Notes 8.5, Lotus Symphony for the Mac, and Web 2.0-oriented widgets and mashups for application developers will be featured. Enterprise applications customers will also hear more about IBM's Atlantic partnership with SAP.

IBM Lotusphere will kick off in earnest Jan. 18, with thousands of high-tech customers, partners, press and analysts flocking to Orlando to discuss the state of collaboration software viewed through the Big Blue lens.

More than 145 million corporate employees are using IBM's Lotus Notes e-mail software, which is now used in more than half of the Fortune 100 companies, Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of IBM messaging and collaboration software, told eWEEK before the show. The other half of those Fortune 100 companies use Notes rival Microsoft Exchange.
Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler said Lotus has been revitalized under new general manager Bob Picciano, who replaced Mike Rhodin last, and confirmed what Cavanaugh said. Schadler added that IBM is strong in large enterprises, while Exchange has more traction in the small and midsize business range.
Market share estimates vary widely for Exchange and Lotus Notes. Gartner Dataquest's most recent report from 2008 shows Notes narrowing the gap on market leader Exchange, with IBM's Notes owning 40 percent share worldwide and Microsoft grabbing 48 percent for Exchange.
IDC's annual market share analysis of collaborative environments puts Microsoft's market share at 52 percent, with IBM's market share slipping 5 percent to 37.7 percent. A Ferris Research survey of 917 organizations worldwide found Exchange in 65 percent of those shops.
IBM won't let such figures dampen its annual Lotusphere parade. Cavanaugh said IBM will play up the newly released Lotus Notes 8.5 and the newly minted Lotus Symphony for Mac OS X computers, but one of the other major themes at Lotusphere will be cloud computing and SAAS (software as a service).
Cloud computing is when software is accessed over the Internet rather than installed on corporate servers and desktops. IBM hosts the software on its own servers. The cornerstone piece of IBM's cloud offering for Lotus is Bluehouse, the company's SAAS collaboration suite.
Bluehouse lets companies put social networking tools, including profiles, activities and Dogear bookmarking technology from IBM's Lotus Connections suite, in front of their customers. The next iteration of Lotus Connections, currently in Version 2.0, will also get some lip service at the conference.