New Lotus GM Highlights Growth in Q1

Lotus Connections enterprise social networking software is the fastest growing new commercial software product in IBM history.

With Microsoft's SharePoint software experiencing explosive growth in the last year or so, it's important for IBM's Lotus Software Group to keep up its product cycles to facilitate sales growth.

The competitive motivation has clearly kicked in. IBM posted 17 percent growth for its Lotus division in the first quarter, marking the 14th consecutive quarter of growth for the once flagging product line.

Bob Picciano, who replaced Mike Rhodin as general manager of Lotus April 1, told eWEEK April 18 Lotus Notes and WebSphere Portal both experienced double-digit growth in the first quarter. Though just over a year old, the Lotus Connections enterprise social networking software continued to be the fastest-growing new commercial software product in IBM history.

Shipped last Aug. 17, Lotus Notes release 8 links into the Lotus Quickr team collaboration software and Lotus Connections to allow users to share content between the two products.

For example, Notes customers can use the Activities component of Connections to share documents, e-mail, instant messaging and other files in Notes. Similarly, Lotus Quickr connectors for Lotus Notes 8 let workers save attachments into team workspaces, replace attachments with shared links and use the collaborative content services of Quickr.

Notes 8 also has presence awareness thanks to integration with IBM's flagship unified communications and collaboration SameTime client directly into the Notes e-mail application.

Knocking Down Silos

Such cross-product integration breaks down the traditionally IBM product silos to help employees get tasks done faster, one of the hallmarks of Web 2.0 collaboration.

Ovum Research analyst Steve Hodgkinson told eWEEK April 18 the confluence of Notes, Connections, Quickr and SameTime unified communications and collaboration software seems to have hit the enterprise 2.0 market opportunity perfectly.

The analyst added that Lotus has received a positive market reaction because they are well done and provide a viable alternative to Microsoft products. Some customers just like that Lotus is built on Eclipse, providing a more open option to SharePoint, a $1 billion-plus business for Microsoft.

"Lotus seems to create a high degree of loyalty in its client base, and this loyalty has been sorely tested for the past few years, but now that the new products are out I think we will see strong sales performance as existing Lotus clients make the upgrade to Notes 8 and buy the new social networking/Web 2.0 functionality of Quickr and Connections," Hodgkinson said.

IBM's Cloudy SAAS Concept

But will IBM Lotus go the route of Google Apps and Microsoft Live by offering its collaboration products as a SAAS or cloud offering? This is unlikely at this point. Picciano pointed toward IBM's Lotus Foundations and Bluehouse offerings.

Announced at Lotusphere Jan. 21, Foundations is the company's new line of Linux-based SMB software servers installed on-premises, while Bluehouse is the company's first SAAS offering. Bluehouse lets businesses share contacts, files and project activities through chat and Web conferences.

"More demanding than the capabilities in the cloud is that people want to enjoy the same kind of social capability that we provided to the enterprise in the small business format or enjoy the capabilities with Notes and innovations that we've done with Symphony to lower the cost of running a small business," he said.

Hodgkinson says that IBM's outlook is bright as a challenger to Microsoft.

"This game is for Microsoft to lose [as the incumbent dominant player] and for IBM Lotus to win [as the promising upstart] and it is more energizing to be on the attack than it is trying to defend established fortifications when under continual siege," Hodgkinson added.