Lotusphere 2008 – my view from afar…

As I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing by now, I am not at Lotusphere this week. I should be, I want to be, and I am bleeding crying yellow at not being there. I’ve been following every Planetlotus entry, live feed, live blog, flickr photo, Twitter tweet and rss feed all week, and I have to say, I’ve loved it. This Lotusphere has really shown just what an engergised and evangelistic community can do when it is given the opportunity to get together, work together, share knowledge/skills/techniques and truly innovate as a group. I am in awe of the efforts that many have made for the folks like me that are watching from afar. Thank you all.

So, onto the news from the conference itself. Many have covered the individual announcements from the OGS in detail, and of course those out in Orlando have had the detailed technical sessions since the OGS to delve deeper and find out more about the reality behind the marketing hype. There was a huge number of announcements and items of interest in there, some of huge potential to those of us over here in the UK, and others that I don’t think will fly in the same way. From the conversations I’ve had and the posts I’ve read, it seems as if the OGS itself was lukewarm – the sportscaster clearly didn’t go down well, the timing of the session was odd (Maureen being given a third of the time allotted to Portal etc.) and it almost seemed like too many individual elements were crammed into the two hours available.  This was obviously a shame, but shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow the conference as a whole.

What struck me overall is that last years message was all about new product – Quickr and Connections, plus Notes8 to come – and the addition of these blocks to what had become a very cohesive and easy to understand Lotus strategy slide. After the years of doubt, the Lotus message was clear again, and it was very very positive. Connections was a leap into the unknown, a whole new product area, and was a risky undertaking after the Workplace move. I am very glad to say that it has paid off, and the Lotus of 2008 is a much stronger and more dynamic animal.

This years message from Lotusphere seems to be more complex, agile and mature – a layered approach that offers value to customers of all shapes and sizes. For those SMBs that would struggle to run a Lotus collaborative infrastructure themselves, we have Lotus Bluehouse, or if they are willing to take the plunge, there is Lotus Foundations to make it easier. For those larger corporates that want to do more with what they have, there is the Atlantic IBM/SAP development. For those who develop on the platform, there are the stunning new features in Domino 8.5 with the Eclipse-based designer plus the new Lotus Mashups product. If you’re on the admin side of life, we have the new Lotus Protector email appliance. Plus of course, new and improved versions of the Web2.0-focused products, Quickr and Connections. Truly, something for everyone.

Lotus is clearly no longer a software-only brand, it has solutions for customers that now cover Software as a Service, appliances, services (Atlas and others through ISSL) and the software we know and love. I think this is a very shrewd move. It brings Lotus solutions into the reach of far more organisations worldwide, and allows value to be demonstrated more quickly and at lower initial cost than ever before. However, where I think this strategy really scores, is that it takes Lotus out of a product-for-product straight-on-flight with Microsoft. Lotus truly has a different approach, a cohesive strategy and a strong message for the future.

Lotus came back in 2007 and is ready to innovate and to lead the market through 2008. I am impressed.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!