It was one of my first assignments for the newspaper formerly known as PC Week. The first days of June 1995, I tagged along with then-Executive Editor of News, John Dodge, to interview then-CEO of Lotus Development Corp., Jim Manzi, who discussed the bright days ahead for his company. A few days later, IBM bought Lotus for some $3 billion, and ever since, weve covered the two companies very closely, waiting for the other shoe to drop—that is, the day when Lotus will be fully assimilated into Big Blue.
In my opinion, that day is long past. Weve chronicled many instances of Lotus internal structures being converted into IBMs, from sales and marketing to services to corporate chiefs to product development. It has to be the slowest such process in the history of American business. Yet at every turn, Lotus and IBM officials dutifully report that Lotus is still a vibrant and autonomous company.
I certainly wish it were. In its day, Lotus was a feisty competitor that set standards in technological innovation and workplace appeal. Now it lumbers on as a “development lab” for IBM, as former CEO Jeff Papows calls it.
Again, none of which is a bad thing, except for the fact that officials continue to call us every time we suggest the blasphemous notion that Lotus is no longer calling its own shots.
But yet again, we continue to dig out news—such as IBMs developing a knowledge management solution that doesnt include Lotus own KM product, Raven—and receive press releases that suggest otherwise. One came about a recent announcement—from IBM, not Lotus—for a product called iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook, which IBM describes as an “IBM eServer” software solution.
None of this would matter if customers knew unambiguously whos in charge and where they are leading their them. Anything short of that erodes confidence in their ability to deliver products and services that add value to the enterprise. Cmon, IBM, finish the acquisition once and for all.