Good for *which* customers (and which company)?
Follow-on to my rabble-rousing post about Microsoft not presenting at Lotusphere...
First off, I'd like to thank everyone who joined in *and* for keeping it pretty civil. I had no idea that it'd be that lively. Although the Microsoft people might not agree completely, I thought it was relatively focused on the issue I tried to raise and didn't degrade into name-calling. At least, that's the way I perceived it, but I may be too close to the issue to be totally objective... :)
One of the overriding comments I saw a lot was "the customer is the loser" in this decision to not let Microsoft participate. From a non-emotional, technical-only perspective, I can sort of see that. People have Notes, people have .Net, and they want to learn how to put the two together. Lotusphere will have information on how to integrate Office into your Notes apps, and there will be plenty of information on web services (the primary way to tie together Notes and .Net). So is the customer really *losing* anything by having IBM business partners and IBM staff present this information instead of Microsoft? Not really... Granted, it's from the perspective of using Notes as the base tool reaching out to Microsoft, not the reverse which is where Microsoft wants to start from. But if that's your direction, then there's the Notes2.Net conferences.
Now let's deal add in some marketing message and some emotion... Context:
Ballmer To Partners: Don't Wait For Longhorn
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says there is more-than-ample business opportunity in the pre-Longhorn era for partners to profit. He cited migrations from IBM Notes/Domino, SAP, Novell and Oracle products, as well as upgrading Windows NT 4.0 as huge green field.
Ballmer rallies partners, targets IBM, Novell
Speaking with his usual gusto to a gathering of Microsoft resellers and solutions provider partners, Ballmer took direct aim at IBM in his morning keynote address, identifying the company as Microsoft's No. 1 competitor and criticizing every aspect of IBM's three-pronged strategy to provide hardware, software and services to customers.
"Does IBM have the best hardware most of the time? Ask yourself that question, I say," Ballmer said, eliciting laughter from the audience. "Does IBM have the best software? They don't even have in my personal opinion the second-best software. Do they have the best services? No, they don't have the best services. IBM's product line is the weakest it's ever been. The value [of IBM] is significantly less today than at any time in my 25 years in the business."
"People say IBM has the biggest services army in the world, I say that's nonsense," he roared in a booming voice. "Our partner base is the biggest services force in the world."
Ballmer said Lotus Notes customers are a particularly easy target, reiterating a stance taken earlier in the weekend conference by Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group, who described Microsoft's intent to poach Lotus Development Corp.'s partners.
"The Lotus Notes opportunity, just to remind everybody, is coming out the ying-yang," Ballmer said. "I've never seen a customer base more ripe to be plucked. They're just waiting for us and our partners to do the conversions [to Microsoft]."
These quotes aren't from 2002 or 2003... They're from July, 2005 and are the top two Google hits when you search on Ballmer Lotus. Who signs the paychecks at Microsoft?
The perspective of "the customer's the loser" only makes sense to me if you look at it from Microsoft's perspective. More accurately, I see it as "the prospective Microsoft customer's the loser". If I as Microsoft can convince you to start writing your applications based in Visual Studio and to have you call Domino via web services, then I can start to weed out the Notes client, weed out the Notes applications, and talk about moving data and logic to other Microsoft tools like SQL Server, InfoPath, SharePoint, and whatever else fits. And *don't* tell me that doesn't happen... I've heard it, I've seen it, and it's standard sales tactics.
The techie that wants to know how to hook up Notes with .Net also could want to know how to run Notes on Linux, how to code AJAX, and a hundred other things about the inner workings of the magic of technology. It's what we are and it's what we do. The "customer" paying the bills wants to know how to get value from their software platform of choice. If they're at Lotusphere, it's probably IBM Lotus/Domino. If it's Microsoft's collaboration solution(s)(?), then they're probably going to a Microsoft DevCon or the Notes2.Net conferences to approach integration with Microsoft as the closest point of use.
If you're a business partner working both sides, you end up having to make a choice between conferences to get the base perspective you want. Or you go to both vendor's offering. But don't expect IBM to allow Microsoft to push their tools as a primary point, just as you can't expect Microsoft to allow IBM to push Notes as the primary development platform at their conferences.