Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Ed Brill: It was 20 years ago today...

Ed Brill: It was 20 years ago today...: "The last few years have seen the maturing of that market, though impressively, there are still thousands of companies installing their first Domino servers this year. Ray and the other Iris founders have moved on to other inventions and innovations. Still, despite what seems like almost annual pronouncements of its death, Notes not only lives on -- but with the seventh version now in beta, and concrete evolution plans for the future, it seems certain that Notes will remain a key part of the corporate software landscape -- perhaps for the next 15 or 20 years."

More Lotus Notes anniversary insights. A few minor issues, though, Ed:
1. Lotus 1-2-3 circa 1990 was broken in many ways, but it was reasonable to build for OS/2 before Windows, given the state of the market at that time; the success of Windows 3.0 took the market by surprise, and it's important to remember that Microsoft didn't go from OS/2 co-creator/advocate to OS/2 competitor until rather late in the game. If Lotus had ported the OS/2 version of 1-2-3 to Windows, rather than compromising and doing a Frankenstein-ish hybrid DOS/Windows release for the first release of 1-2-3 for Windows, it could have been a very different story. 1-2-3 for OS/2 was a great product that later served as the engine for Improv as well, but Lotus quite reasonably didn't continue investing in it as OS/2 failed.
2. Lotus can't be faulted for the timing of AT&T Network Notes -- few could have predicted, during the early 1990s, that the commercial market would instead gleefully adopt early Internet-based alternatives that offered relatively limited security and features. Indeed, one could argue that the advent of the read-mostly commercial Web was in many respects a multi-year set-back for collaborative applications.
3. Internet influences appeared in Notes long before R5 -- which wasn't, for the record, a Ray Ozzie-led release. The Dennis Leary ads were pretty cool, however...

Anyways, thanks for sharing your insights and experiences, as always, and best wishes for the next decade or two with Lotus Notes.

3 comments:

Ed Brill said...

Well, you were part of the product team at the time and I wasn't, but I seem to recall Ray being part of the foundation of R5, even if he didn't stay to ship it.

Your observation on AT&T Network Notes is interesting -- I had started to write something about the publish-only nature of the initial Internet in my entry this morning, and lost it when the breakfast service came through on the flight. Of course we'll never know how that changed the way people think about collaboration.

Oh, and thanks for the clarifying point on 1-2-3. I know that when I joined Lotus in '94, there was still a fairly significant OS/2 investment going on... it was said that 1 Charles Park was built on IBM investment in OS/2 SmartSuite. Perhaps that was the tail end of it.

Brian Benz said...

An observation from the "outside" re the network issue - I remember attending one Lotusphere, I think in 1996, when it seemed that Lotus had missed the whole Internet thing completely. The IT industry was abuzz with talk of HTML, HTTP and Browsers, and the biggest thing at the opening session were layout regions and Lotus Components (remember them?). I was relieved later to see and work with Internotes, then Domino.

Peter said...

Thanks for the feedback. A couple rushed responses:

1. Ray left IBM during October, 1997; R5 shipped during early 1999. Even if Ray was there for the initial planning, R5 would have been a very different release if he'd stayed at Lotus. Ditto Len Kawell, who had also left IBM/Lotus/Iris by that time.

2. Yeah, Lotusphere 1996 was a bit of a twilight zone. It was Lotus' last major attempt to revitalize its desktop suite business, if I remember correctly, with a keynote heavy on the (ultimately short-lived) Lotus Components etc. It was also kind of awkward because Notes 4.0 shipped in January, 1996 but was the star of Lotusphere 1995 -- i.e., it had already been widely publicized. The first InterNotes offering, in any case, was InterNotes News, released in May, 1995. Anyone who thinks Ray et al were blind to the Internet is subscribing to revisionist history -- you could argue Lotus could have done more sooner to more completely integrate Notes and the Web, but platform-scale products such as Notes/Domino aren't easy to redirect, and even as late as 1995, when Netscape was enjoying its brief Teflon/do-no-wrong phase, it still wasn't clear that enterprise customers would make major compromises on functionality and security in order to catch the Web wave... Now the pendulum seems to be going back in the other direction.