Bolt from the blue, Notes guru resigns

Lotus Development Corp. announced internally Tuesday that Raymond Ozzie, the architect of Notes, had resigned to pursue a new project. Ozzie founded Iris Associates in 1984 -- the company that went on to create Notes for Lotus in 1990.

"Ray has left to pursue work related to Notes and Domino," said Bryan Simmons, spokesperson for Lotus. "He is doing this with the full co-operation of Lotus and IBM." An internal memo sent out on Tuesday stated that Ozzie was leaving Iris Associates, a Lotus subsidiary, to work on an unidentified new project.

Ozzie -- a multimillionaire from the sale of Iris Associates to Lotus for $84 million in stock in 1994 -- has made Notes the groupware standard that changed the way millions of people work. "Ray is motivated to have Notes be the centre of the computing universe," said analyst James Moore of business strategy consulting firm GeoPartners Research, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Groupware is the general term for applications whose purpose is to help users share information with groups of other people. Lotus Notes lets people share databases, e-mail, and other documents, enabling groups in different locations to work together.

The reaction of the industry has been favourable so far. "This is a great thing for the ecology of Notes," said GeoPartner's Moore. "They are giving a creative person with a proven track record the room to create new tools." Moore pointed out that Ozzie has stayed on long enough to settle any issues with Notes within IBM.

Others think getting Ozzie out from under Big Blue is for the best. "Sometimes you need the little lab approach to separate the creativity from the corporate entity," said Bob Lewin, director and principle analyst with market researcher Dataquest. "If he has some ideas to make Notes better, this could be a really good move."

For customers, Ozzi's departure will have little effect on the purchasing decisions or application development. "It's primarily an emotional event and secondarily an intellectual event," said Rowan Synder, a partner and CTO at Coopers & Lybrand in New York, where currently Notes seats are in the 50,000 range, "But it's really not a business event."

Few others will be leaving with the architect of Notes, according to Lotus spokesperson Simmons. The new company will start with Ozzie, his brother Jack, and two former Iris Associates employees. No others are planning to relocate.

Following the purchase of Lotus by IBM in July 1995, groupware applications based on the Web and intranets began to erode Lotus's grip on the market. "There are a lot of people working in Web-based groupware tools, so it's high time that Lotus start's thinking about its next generation," said GeoPartners' Moore.

With reporting by Charles Cooper and John Dodge.

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