Lotusphere 2005 impressions: I spent a couple days at Lotusphere 2005 in Orlando last week. To summarize my high-level impressions:
1. IBM is playing offense rather than defense in communication/collaboration market segments -- for the first time in a long time. IBM Lotus had some serious product line positioning challenges during the last few years, awkwardly trying to balance the Notes/Domino/Sametime base with the Java/WebSphere/DB2/etc. next-generation product line that's now called IBM Workplace. It's clear that Notes/Domino/Sametime are going to be vibrant for the foreseeable future (a significant change from circa 2002) and will usefully complement Workplace, while Workplace will be an attractive option for enterprises that haven't gone with Notes/Domino/Sametime but seek a competitive alternative (which also runs on multiple platforms etc.) to Microsoft's Exchange/SharePoint/Live Meeting/Live Communications/Windows Server System. IBM also made Workplace much easier to understand and acquire, bringing the myriad former IBM Lotus Workplace products together as IBM Workplace Collaboration Services.
2. The tone at this year's Lotusphere was focused on innovation instead of the less compelling tone of recent years (which might be paraphrased as "Me too, but later") as IBM juggled multiple releases of Notes (including the deeply challenged Notes/Domino R5) and lofty aspirations but little shipping product to support what would become Workplace. Now, with new products/features such as Activity Explorer and (the Eclipse framework-based) Workplace Designer, and -- critically -- with strong Notes/Domino integration throughout the product line -- IBM is in a much stronger competitive position.
3. IBM is clearly competing with Microsoft at a portfolio level -- platforms, tools, applications, and solutions. Both companies are touting strong support for rich PC clients, non-PC devices, and browser clients, with dynamically-provisioned, server-managed applications, deep and broad contextual communication/collaboration, tool suites for several types of developers, and much more. The relentless competition between IBM and Microsoft is going to produce significant opportunities for customers and steep challenges for vendors that can't compete across the full platform/tool/application/solution continuum.