IBM unveiled LotusLive notes Jan. 19 and with that brand change obliterated the amorphous sounding Bluehouse moniker.
What is LotusLive? LotusLive is the brand name for meeting, messaging and collaboration applications IBM intends to deliver to partners, who will in turn put them in front of their customers as a SAAS (software as a service) platform this year, Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration at IBM, told eWEEK at Lotusphere 2009 Jan. 20.
IBM demonstrated the first product, LotusLive Engage, which blends social networking, Web conferencing, chat, file sharing and storage for enterprise collaboration, at the event. Officially, Engage is the product formerly known as Bluehouse. But that was just a taste to whet Lotus lovers’ appetites.
Poulley and other IBM officials promised much more from LotusLive later this year, but it was unclear during his presentation what those solutions would be. eWEEK asked Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of messaging and collaboration for IBM, what LotusLive would include, in an interview later in the day. LotusLive applications will include SAAS iterations of existing IBM on-premise applications, said Cavanaugh.
One of those apps is already live; LotusLive Notes, formerly called Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging Service, is a version of Notes IBM hosts in its data centers targeted to businesses from 1,000 to 10,000 e-mail inboxes. “We’ll host your e-mail servers on Domino 8.5,” Cavanaugh said.
Other solutions planned for later this year include: LotusLive iNotes, a lightweight version of Notes for “boundary workers” that don’t require full functionality of Notes; LotusLive Connections, a SAAS version of the company’s enterprise social networking software; and LotusLive Meetings and LotusLive Events, a rebranding of the Lotus Sametime Unyted SAAS Web conferencing application.
There will even be LotusLive BlackBerry add-ons for LotusLive Notes and LotusLive instant messaging plug-ins for Notes users over the next few months.
Clearly, LotusLive is intended to challenge the pioneering SAAS collaboration platform, Google Apps, and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, a new family that includes SAAS versions of SharePoint, Exchange, Office Live Meeting and Office Communication Server.
LotusLive Has Great Apps, Muddled Branding. However, Poulley also promised eWEEK in an interview that LotusLive would be a more unified, seamless experience, implying that Google Apps and Microsoft’s Office and SharePoint apps comprise unrelated applications. He also promised that IBM’s social networking utilities will not be matched by Google or Microsoft.
Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler said IBM makes the unification claim because LotusLive is designed from the ground up to be an integration platform for cloud-based services. “The APIs for identity, security and content are quite sophisticated and Web 2.0 native (REST-ful as they say).”
Moreover, LotusLive is an extranet collaboration platform, allowing IBM’s channel partners to not only trigger secure conferencing, calendaring and content exchange for their customers, but to integrate and deliver new applications.
“I’m not aware that the other services yet do that, though the market for cloud-based extranet collaboration platforms will heat up this year,” Schadler predicted. However, he tempered his praise, noting that IBM has yet to unveil pricing for LotusLive; the offering has too many e-mail choices; the technology is version 1; and the channel isn’t quite ready for it. “Still, it’s the best offering I’ve seen so far.” One thing is certain; IBM’s name-changing game is quickly rivaling Microsoft’s notorious, frequently morphing branding scheme for products such as Windows Live. Bluehouse is now LotusLive Engage and IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging, which launched in October, will be renamed LotusLive Notes. Lotus Sametime Unyte will be renamed LotusLive Meetings and LotusLive Events. IBM even renamed its joint software gig with SAP Alloy from Atlantic.
With all of these changes, IBM would do well to get settled on some very clear product names to avoid diluting its own brand. Burton Group’s Guy Creese, who attended Lotusphere 2009, agreed. “It’s getting really confusing, given the different feature sets and naming conventions,” Creese said. “LotusLive has a lot of features [e.g., Web conferencing, file sharing, profiles, contacts], but chunks of it are not available yet.” So the promise for LotusLive is great, and given IBM’s delivery track record, the execution this year is almost certain. The key question is whether IBM can get its SAAS marketing straight lest it blow away like a cloud.