Untangling IBM's Messaging Strategy

A recently published report from the Radicati Group reveals IBM may have its work cut out for itself as it attempts to sell customers simultaneously on its Lotus Domino/Notes and Workplace Messaging offerings. In a teleconference held last week, analysts cited poor communication and an unclear road map as the culprits.

Not sure whether to look at Lotus Domino/Notes or Workplace Messaging? A report from the Radicati Group reveals IBM may have its work cut out as it attempts to sell customers simultaneously on the two messaging offerings.

Domino currently owns about 24 percent of the corporate messaging market. Radicati estimates this translates into 85.9 million mail boxes. The research firm predicts Lotus Workplace, IBM's collaboration platform released late last year, will have a total of 3.7 million mail boxes -- about 1 percent of the market -- by year end. While it anticipates Workplace accounting for 50 million mail boxes by 2008, it will hit many bumps along the way.

Lotus Workplace is a collection of integrated communication tools for collaboration, messaging, e-meetings, and calendaring and scheduling that run on a single, open platform. The tools are designed to be accessed in the context of the work in which the user is engaged, rather than as separate applications.

Four products are available to date: Lotus Workplace Collaborative Learning (for e-learning), Lotus Workplace Messaging (for instant messaging), Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration (for collaborating), and Lotus Workplace Web Content Management (for managing Web content). Workplace Builder, which will enable users to create customized Workplace interfaces with collaboration and application portlets, is due out later this quarter.

Thus, says Radicati analyst Teney Takahashi, much of the robustness Big Blue has promised for Workplace is not yet in place. The analyst expects it will be several releases before Workplace's functionality is on par with that of competitive software.

Another problem for Workplace is its lack of consistent client integration. No one component of workplace integrates with all four of client options (Lotus, Notes, Web browser, mobile, and Microsoft Outlook), and no client integrates with all of the Workplace components, Takahashi explained.

Takahashi noted that to IBM's credit, the solution does makes sense architecturally and it is a safe way for to introduce a successor for Domino. However, the transition strategy is confusing and filled with mixed messages. He noted that most likely the bulk of Lotus users will take a wait-and-see approach and not update Domino on the next release (although they may update neccessary components), or they will "take a look at other solutions to avoid this mess."

Takahashi said he believes "many [companies] will migrate to competitive solutions form Microsoft, Novell, Sun, and others," in part because they will have to cobble together an ad hoc solution until all of the Workplace components are in place, and in part because the move from Domino to Workplace will be a migration requiring evaluation anyway.

The long-term plan is for Domino to be part of Workplace. IBM has yet to reveal the specifics of this, however, and has not announced plans beyond version 8.0, which is set for release in 2006.

The complete 126-page report is available for purchase from the Radicati Group.

This article was originally published on Apr 19, 2004
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