My thoughts about the opening general session for Lotusphere 2011
At Lotusphere, the tone for the week is usually set by the Opening General Session, also known as the OGS. That's where we all find out who the surprise guest speaker will be, get pumped up about how well Lotus is doing in the marketplace, and what really cool things are being announced. Let me preface whatever I say by acknowledging that everyone's view of the OGS will be flavored by whatever their particular situation or focus is within the Lotus marketplace. For my perspective as a longtime Notes/Domino developer and overall technology watcher, my general thought was... meh.
I really didn't expect this to be a year of blockbuster product announcements or major demos of new clients and such. It seems like that happens every other year, and whatever Notes Next is going to be is still something in the 2012 timeframe as far as I can tell. If all follows according to general form, next year should be full of "and we're announcing..." statements with killer demos. Having said that, there were a couple of things of interest. The LotusLive Domino offering is very cool. We wanted to be able to put our apps in the cloud along with our mail, and now we'll apparently be able to. There will also flexibility in licensing that will hopefully make Domino in the Cloud something that can be cost effective to run in small numbers, but can also scale should the app continue to grow. In addition to that announcement, LotusLive Symphony (basically Project Concord) has made its appearance, and the real-time group editing and access of documents and files is very nice. I think IBM now has a solid cloud offering that's compelling on all fronts. Now they just need to win over decision makers and keep the accounts they already have.
The buzzword of the day was "social." Everything has to be social. Building apps that are social is the way to go. Social, social, social... If I think back to the Gartner Hype Cycle, I think we're near (or at) the top of the Peak of Inflated Expectations. Social will do everything for a business, if you believe the hype. Of course, we've gone through Knowledge Management, network devices, mashups, and a dozen other "game-changing" technologies that either fizzled out or made their way to the Plateau of Productivity. My feeling is that social everything will be headed for the Trough of Disillusionment within the next year or so, and then we'll end up with some of the concepts and implementations folded into "the way we do business." Then we'll make room for the next best thing since sliced bread... Rinse and repeat. IBM is definitely doing some interesting things in this area, but I have a hard time believing that social will mean the same thing as it does now in two years.
One element I saw that was missing in this year's OGS was any sort of stance about market share/revenue losses. Yes, I know that IBM/Lotus does not break out their numbers that way... Yes, I know they can't comment on statements like these due to "legal constraints." But I don't think there's many people who have been working in the Lotus field for any length of time who aren't concerned (or resigned) to how Microsoft (and Google) have continued to win major accounts from Notes. Things go both ways, and IBM has had wins too. But the press and the customer stories I hear blogged and related don't paint a rosy picture. Prior Lotuspheres have had a "the gloves are off" theme... an attitude that said we are going to take the fight to the competition. This year, very little if any. In fact, the only thing I can point directly to would be that the Social Toolkit will integrate with Microsoft offerings. Ok, but that's not exactly a call to action in my book. And of course, this wouldn't be complete without saying that nothing (at least so far) has been said about Lotus marketing. The week's just starting, and I don't have a clue as to whether there are additional guns to be fired. But the lack of talk about the competition was telling in my opinion.
For the OGS session itself... Kevin Spacey was excellent. I'm not a movie buff, and I wouldn't have been able to tell you much of anything about Spacey except for "he's an actor, right?" But he actually gave a talk that was relevant to what we do. I get extremely irritated when someone gives the canned corporate speech and just inserts the name of the company sponsoring it (which is sort of what we got the last few years). This was one of the best guest speakers we've had in terms of being on topic. The opening band? Stellar.
My biggest disappointment/gripe was the panels. Yeah, I'm a geek and I want to see demos. Yes, I know the OGS has to speak to management that are there. But with only a minor exception, all the examples of "social" solutions the companies talked about were devoid of any mention of IBM or Lotus technology. They could have had that same panel on stage at a Microsoft conference, used the same words on the teleprompter, and it would have also worked there. If I didn't know I was at LOTUSphere, I wouldn't have been able to tell if their solutions were even based on IBM technology. Actually, I still couldn't, but I'm assuming they were. Those panels need to be much more specific in what software was used to create the solutions. Otherwise, why even waste the time?
Later tonight after I finish with all my "social-ness", I'll glean the press stuff and update my Lotusphere Press page for Monday. Hopefully, the industry analysts saw stuff to excite them. I'll be interested in hearing what they say (and what IBM says) and compare it to my impressions...