With a major release of its Notes/Domino messaging software now
finished, Lotus Development is tackling another, more difficult challenge:
Erasing its long-standing image as a company driven by a single
Lotus executives say they are determined
to shake the one-trick pony perception by later this year touting a
group of products that fall under its knowledge management strategy and are
not dependent on Notes/Domino.
It's an effort Lotus has been fighting for years. Almost since its founding
in 1981, the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company has ate and slept
one key product. In the early 1980s through the early 1990s, that product
was Lotus 1-2-3, which helped spawn the PC industry.
In more recent times, Notes, the first groupware product on the market, has
attracted both customers and the attention of IBM, which purchased Lotus for $3.5 billion
in 1995, principally to get its hands on the Notes franchise.
One overriding issue has haunted Lotus through those two very different
eras: how to develop a decent second fiddle product to augment the company's
"They are considered the Notes company," said Rob Enderle, senior
analyst with Giga Information
Group. "Notes is an IBM product. It fits well with its overall
And therein lies the problem. While Notes/Domino is considered strategic by
IBM, Lotus's other major product line, its SmartSuite desktop application
suite, well regarded for its technical merits, hasn't benefited from IBM's
"[SmartSuite] doesn't get anywhere near enough marketing dollars to
make a difference," against market leader Microsoft Office, said Enderle.
Also, a plan to launch a set of Java-based office productivity applets
appears to have fallen by the wayside. At one time, several hundred
developers were assigned to the project, sources said. Now, the company
plans to break off the SmartSuite component
SmartCenter, a desktop tool that accesses contact information and gathers
news from the Internet, into a separate product. No timeframe has been
Lotus is also considering porting SmartSuite to
Linux, said Lynne Capozzi, vice president of Internet applications. But
again, no timeframe has been disclosed.
Most likely, Office's hammerlock on the market will preclude any additional
marketing splurges on SmartSuite. The command Microsoft Office has over the
desktop market is nearly universal,
Ted Schandler, an analyst at Forrester Research, said. "It's as close to 100
percent as you would want to get."
Now that Notes/Domino R5, considered the most important launch
of Lotus's groupware product since release 1.0, has shipped, the IBM subsidiary
is ready to try again to establish a strong second-string product line. This
time, the strategy will focus on a set of knowledge management applications
that are not dependent on Notes/Domino.
"If you watched carefully at Lotusphere 99 and even late last year, Lotus is
trying to divorce themselves from the one-product mold," said Tom Austin, an
analyst with the Gartner Group. "They
have products like SameTime and other knowledge management applications that
are being sold as stand-alone products and
as integrated components of Notes and Domino. These are good products," he
Knowledge management software is used to provide a system for companies to
transform information from various sources--the Web, back-office
applications, databases--into client applications for making business
Lotus points to a group of knowledge management software packages that it
will sell as separate products and will aim at customers that may not use Notes or Domino.
One of those products is SameTime 1.0, a software tool for instant
communication via the Web. Launched
in January, SameTime is actually the combination of two different
technologies obtained by Lotus when it purchased real-time software
vendors Lexington, Kentucky-based DataBeam and Israeli-based Ubique.
Another new product is LearningSpace, a distance learning software package.
Due to launch by the end of May, LearningSpace 3.0 will include
LearningSpace Forum, an asynchronous version of the product; LearningSpace
Live, a synchronous version; and LearningSpace Anytime, which is a
combination of both the asynchronous and synchronous versions. The product
includes a "live" virtual classroom environment, making it easier for
instructors to deliver remote presentations, share applications, and tour
Web sites with participating students.
LearningSpace "is of strategic importance and great value to Lotus,"
said Brian Bell, vice president of Lotus's new knowledge management
Lotus points to its successes in the hosted application market as yet
another example of its ability to develop products that are not dependent on its vast
Notes/Domino customer base.
Based on the earlier success of its Instant TeamRoom offering, which allows
distributed users to work together over the Internet, Lotus QuickPlace rolled out in
QuickPlace allows workgroups within and between companies to use their
Internet browser to set up a customized workplace to centrally
communicate, share, and organize information, documents, and schedules
relating to a particular project.
"The fact of the matter is we had the first knowledge management
product," said Bell. "That product is Notes and Domino. We're leveraging
this important product on a higher level of collaboration. Knowledge
management is a huge business in its own right."
Bell estimates the knowledge management market in North America is
worth $50 billion.
According to a recent report by the Gartner Group, one-third of Fortune
1000 companies are including knowledge management initiatives in
their 1999 plans.
But just because Lotus is selling products in the knowledge management
market doesn't mean it can completely shed its Notes/Domino skin, Gartner's Austin said.
"Will they achieve the same sales as Domino? Not on your life. But it is
still worth the effort."