Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

 

When everyone thought IBM will never get the SaaS game, they jumped in with their Lotuslive offerings. They followed it up with the addition of a social component, called LotusLive Connections, to help businesses of all sizes to work beyond their corporate firewall. At Lotusphere 2010 this week at Orlando, IBM announced some additions to their LotusLive Cloud Collaboration Platform which now provides integrated email, Web conferencing, social networking and collaboration with emphasis on security, reliability and enterprise integration. Essentially, this is IBM’s attempt to push SaaS into the enterprises to maintain their marketshare.

In doing so, IBM has taken a page out of Google’s playbook and announced LotusLive Labs, a collaborative effort between teams at IBM Research and Lotus. LotusLive Labs will offer LotusLive customers access to pre-alpha technologies just like how Google is offering with their products like Gmail and Google Calendar. This announcement follows last week’s dramatic announcement that they have poached a big enterprise customer away from Microsoft Exchange. They announced that they are going to start with one of the largest cloud deployments for Panasonic with more than 300K seats. At that time, they announced that the LotusLive platform is extensible and it would allow Panasonic to build extensions to its infrastructure without increasing the resources of its IT departments. Their announcement on Monday further reveals IBM’s strategy of releasing their own extensions through LotusLive Labs.

Currently, they have made a handful of such technologies available and this portfolio will grow in number pretty soon. The technology previews available right now are

  • Slide Library, a presentation library using which one can search through libraries of presentations to gather useful information and ideas. And when the presentation is done, it can be uploaded and shared with colleagues and clients.
  • Event Maps, an easy way to browse conference sessions, organize sessions by categories and provide feedback to conference organizers. Event Maps supports collaboration features such as commenting, rating and tagging on conference events.
  • Collaborative Recorded Meetings is a collaborative media and meetings service that records and transcribes the entire meeting presentation which allows one to locate and share part or full presentation with others.
  • Composer lets one create new applications by mashing up all sorts of services from the Web, e-mail, forms, collaboration tools and backend systems.

None of these are new to many of us from the consumer-centric world. However, enterprises are taking a slower path to adoption and IBM is trying to convince them that they should continue trusting IBM even for their SaaS needs. In fact, soon they will be releasing a collaborative app similar to Google Wave and offer support for LotusLive mobile from iPhone.

They also announced that they will make APIs for LotusLive services available to any IBM business partner in the second half of 2010. In fact, three of their partners will soon be announcing integrated solutions based on LotusLive APIs.

  • Silanis Technology, which offers electronic signature process management to be integrated with LotusLive Files and Activities
  • Skype, for making voice and video calls with LotusLive contacts
  • Prolifiq, a sales messaging platform integrated with LotusLive Contacts and Files

Interestingly, IBM will soon move LotusLive offerings to a multi-tenant system much like other SaaS vendors but they are also planning to offer a hybrid solution for enterprises insisting on keeping some of their data on-premise. Another interesting change in IBM’s strategy is the reduction of minimum number of users for a LotusLive Notes subscription from 1,000 to 25. This will help even small businesses take advantage of the same technologies used by big enterprises.

The economics of LotusLive is still unattractive to smaller businesses and, even, some enterprises. Google and other smaller players like Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog but this is my individual opinion) will gain big in these segments. However, with these new offerings, IBM is positioning itself to offer SaaS solutions to their existing customers and also to those enterprises still having difficulty trusting new age companies like Google. IBM’s strategy may not be innovative but it will help them stay in the game and, with some luck, get to eat a reasonably larger share of the pie.

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Krishnan Subramanian

Krish dons several avatars including entrepreneur in exile, analyst cum researcher, technology evangelist, blogger, ex-physicist, social/political commentator, etc.. My main focus is research and analysis on various high impact topics in the fields of Open Source, Cloud Computing and the interface between them. I also evangelize Open Source and Cloud Computing in various media outlets, blogs and other public forums. I offer strategic advise to both Cloud Computing and Open Source providers and, also, help other companies take advantage of Open Source and Cloud Computing. In my opinion, Open Source commoditized software and Cloud Computing commoditized computing resources. A combination of these two developments offers a strong competitive advantage to companies of all sizes and shapes. Due to various factors, including fear, the adoption of both Open Source and Cloud Computing are relatively slow in the business sector. So, I take it upon myself to clear any confusion in this regard and educate, enrich and advise users/customers to take advantage of the benefits offered by these technologies. I am also a managing partner in two consulting companies based in India. I blog about Open Source topics at http://open.krishworld.com and Cloud Computing related topics at http://www.cloudave.com.

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