Lotusphere buzz

This is my tenth Lotusphere and I have to say that the energy and buzz this year has been high.  Higher than it has been for many years.  So, what’s behind it?

I do not think there is one single thing that one can point at on its own but rather it is a series of things.

Bob Picciano, at his first Lotusphere as General Manager Lotus Software, set the tone early on.  His throw-away line at the Opening Session saying that his wife is a Notes/Domino developer and she may well give him grief if he does not look after the community went down a blast.  His approachability and mingling skills through-out the week were fantastic.  Staged?  I did not look like it to me.

So Lotusphere is not just about mingling is it?  No its certainly not but mingling, networking and fun are certainly an important component all mixed with a great learning experience.  So what about the technology?  That’s what we are her for right? 

Lotus Symphony was everywhere.  Lotus Symphony is the free office productivity solution based on the extensible Eclipse platform and available for Microsoft Windows, Linux and MAC and essentially the Microsoft Office replacement offering.  As financial pressures bite, free is compelling, although capabilities still play a part.  The Symphony team should be proud of what they have and the story looking forward is looking good. The Symphony story continues to resonate and I must say that the traction is getting very significant.

I have just come out of a conference session on moving from Microsoft Office to Lotus Symphony which was packed.  I have spoken to many people talking about the costs of their Office maintenance being unsustainable, particularly in the current climate.  I have spoken to people who have potential double-digit million dollar Office renewals who are now considering Lotus Symphony.

The partnerships between IBM and RIM (Blackberry) progressed further.  Lotus Symphony support on the Blackberry is a massive directional signal and their Lotus Connections support is also important for that product. Having the RIM CEO on stage at Lotusphere on the exact day of the 10th anniversary of Blackberry shows the depth of the relationship. 

Project Atlantic, initially launched at Lotusphere 2007, as a co-operative project between IBM and SAP to extend SAP workflows etc to Lotus Notes users, moved to a new level this year with the announcement of Lotus Alloy.  Surfacing SAP through Lotus Notes is a very compelling approach for larger corporates.

LotusLive is the new Cloud-based SAAS offering for hosted solutions mainly aimed initially at messaging, collaborative services and unified communications.This brings IBM into further competition with both Google and Microsoft and it will be interesting to track progress on this project during 2009.

iPhone synchronisation with Notes, blocked for various reasons in the past) has been announced via server based ActiveSync and Lotus Traveler.  It will be interesting to see how this opens the iPhone up in the corporate market.  I know this lack of capability is what has stopped me moving to the iPhone from my Windows Mobile Based device.

Other announcements with Skype, Linked-In and Salesforce.com further added to the buzz.  Seeing the Skype on-line status of contacts who have sent you e-mails in your in-box (referred to as presence awareness which is pervasive in the Lotus environment) was a real neat feature.

Of course IBM’s Q4 results, announced on Tuesday night and which showed very credible performance in a difficult economy, helped in no small way by the Lotus Software Group’s positive performance, was well received. 
The Closing Session is always widely anticipated, not least because of the mystery guest speaker.  it is also likely that GM Bob Picciano will give more details about the results and lift the mood even further seeing that he was limited in his ability to talk about results in the Monday opening session due to IBM reporting to the markets on Tuesday.

One things is for sure: the Lotus community has an amazing spirit.  This year many people have been sprouting badges boasting of the number of Lotuspheres they have attended as a badge of honour (thanks to Bob Balaban for arranging these – great idea Bob).  Old friends, some who only meet annually at Lotusphere, start their good-bye process, many discussing which other Lotus/Domino events they may meet at later this year.  Actually, it is au-revouir.