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Landry sells IBM's e-business

NEWS.COM speaks with IBM consultant John Landry, who showed up in San Francisco today to wave the flag for IBM's new e-business strategy.

IBM (IBM) pulled out all the stops today to impress the industry with its "e-business" strategy, including putting every well-recognized executive it has on display.

John Landry was one of Lotus Development's best-known software strategists for many years. Even though he is now working on a consultant basis for IBM and Lotus, IBM set him to waving the flag today as well. (See related story)

CNET's NEWS.COM spoke with him today after his appearance in San Francisco for a joint announcement on the Web strategies of IBM and Lotus.

NEWS.COM: The product announcements, the Web servers, didn't seem too exciting today. Is that important?
Landry: The purpose was not to announce a product but a revolutionary framework to build what we call "e-business."

What's revolutionary about it?
Landry: What's revolutionary is that we're talking about a framework that goes across product lines, that is consistent and modern for developing e-business applications. It includes the programming model and the programming tools, all based on JavaBeans.

IBM uniquely has the ability to run from the PC up to a mainframe within a consistent framework. If you believe in an ever-growing Internet market, you have to be able to scale like that. That is exactly what the new business environment is about. That's different from Microsoft or Netscape--they can't play in that environment.

What are the next steps we can expect?
Landry: The first one is executing the strategy. Next week, we'll have the first meeting on what we're going to announce in six months--that's the way it is in Internet time. But even this is a significant thing. This is the first tangible thing from IBM and Lotus going public together.

What does it mean then for IBM?
Landry: This company is mobilized. IBM hasn't been mobilized like this for a long time...This is now the focus of the company. The strategy is Java-enabled. It is extremely complementary with the hardware people, and it's also helpful to have a framework for the industry marketing groups within IBM. They can create a "bank bean" for doing a bank transaction. It's a great integration story, giving IBM a rallying cry.

IBM has been a treasure trove of stuff invented in the research labs that has never seen the light of day. It had a hard time capitalizing on that research because it had no channels to those markets. Now you see AppletMaker [an IBM product] getting the Lotus brand [as Lotus BeanMachine]. Now there's an outlet for the stuff in the labs to go out.

From a people perspective, we have accomplished a ton. It takes a lot to get people to move in the same direction. There were a series of meetings to explain: "We're going to create a framework and do it so it unifies the product line." It's an ongoing process.

So that's what you've been doing for 22 months?
Landry: Look, Lotus was a hostile takeover with a presumed cultural change that was way overblown. With IBM chairman Lou Gerstner being told by [ex-Lotus CEO] Jim Manzi to leave Lotus alone, not much happened for 12 months.

When I met with Gerstner, I told him, "Lou, don't leave us too much alone. The whole idea [of the deal] was the synergy." Concurrent with this, remember, you had the evolution of Java--another significant thing. These things have to be grasped and internalized.

The Gerstner IBM is a very different company than when IBM was in trouble, but it's still hard to take a $78 billion company and change its direction. Now we have a cross-platform story, with integration of the Lotus components putting a unifying wrapper on the breadth of offerings that IBM has. We always had a lot of breadth, but there were different pegs, square pegs in round holes. Now we have round pegs in round holes

But isn't your framework a kind of lock-in? You'll have a JavaBean to access your DB2 database, but it'll be different from one for someone else's database.
Landry: Everybody has to offer something that's unique; otherwise, there's no business model. But with JavaBeans based on open standards, this is the antithesis of being locked in.

But JavaBeans is used for more than the Internet.
Landry: You're right. JavaBeans is a programming model. At the end of the day, I believe that everything is the Internet or intranet. I don't even like that distinction. All are part of the network computing strategy.

What about your competitors?
Landry: Do you mean Microsoft? Microsoft has one problem--it only runs Windows. This is a destabilized world for Microsoft. One element is Java; they have to embrace it, but they're caught in an unbelievably bad situation, and their attempts to muck it up with ActiveX just aren't working.

Network computers are creating a rift between Microsoft and Intel. Why? Because none of them run Windows. Microsoft is losing control of the desktops because they're becoming set-tops. With the WebTV acquisition, Microsoft has made a 180-degree flip on consumer Internet appliances in the last two weeks.

Because of standards, for the first time Microsoft's presumed domination of the industry is destabilized.

CNET's Rex Baldazo contributed to this report.