IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino collaboration suite is facing a long-term threat to its survival on Australian corporate desktops, according to local analyst house Longhaus; but IBM disagrees.
Lotus Notes on the iPhone
The Queensland-based analyst group released a report earlier this month which found that 53 per cent of medium to large Australian enterprises used Microsoft's rival Outlook/Exchange suite as their primary email platform, with Notes running a distant second with just 13 per cent market share.
Based on a survey of 110 senior business decision-makers, the report placed Microsoft's consumer-orientated Hotmail/Livemail suite in third place at 11 per cent, Novell's Groupwise and Google's Gmail fourth at 7 per cent and Oracle Mail fifth at 4 per cent. Other, unnamed platforms snapped up the last 5 per cent. No respondent claimed to use Yahoo's hosted Zimbra suite.
"It may take less than 10 years to see the ground permanently shift; a shift that may assign Lotus to the pile of great brands lost forever," Longhaus managing director Peter Carr wrote.
In Carr's opinion, one of Notes' key problems has been that until its most recent major release, Notes 8, IBM has not kept up with Microsoft when it comes to email synchronisation with mobile devices. "The lack of strong commitment to a communication orientation is everywhere evidenced in numerous Lotus user forums," he wrote.
"This has both frustrated and often impeded the efforts for Lotus' own supporters to maintain already tenuous footholds within major enterprise instantiations against a flow of mobile-oriented executives."
Furthermore, Carr wrote, version 7 of Notes proved a particular problem for companies because its application footprint was too large; meaning it was not suitable for lower powered computers that had previously been able to run Notes 6.
IBM's Lotus Messaging and Collaboration sales lead for Australia and New Zealand, Matt Paddon, cast doubt on the report in an interview with ZDNet.com.au this week, describing it as subjective. He said Notes had a little over 40 per cent market share globally.
Paddon said IBM had "absolutely" seen a strong local response to the release of the flagship version 8 of Notes back in 2007. Version 8.5 was released late last year, and the next major release is still being planned.
The executive added IBM was taking a different approach to its collaboration suite than its competitors. "We're not investing millions of dollars in marketing and advertising," he said. "What we do is we push those dollars into the development of the platform."
It may take less than 10 years to see the ground permanently shift; a shift that may assign Lotus to the pile of great brands lost forever
Longhaus MD Peter Carr
This had resulted in IBM building a broad suite of collaboration and messaging tools on top of the Notes/Domino platform, Paddon said, not just email and calendaring functions.
Paddon also addressed criticism of Notes' mobile integration features, noting the platform supported the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Nokia platforms and was speedily adding iPhone capabilities, with iPhone push email functionality planned for the 8.5.1 release due in September this year.
Carr's report also noted that one critical trend within the enterprise email space was the shift on the part of some groups, particularly educational institutions such as universities, to use commodity hosted Microsoft and Google platforms (Livemail and Gmail) to provide services to students.
This trend would flow through to the enterprise, Carr claimed, with the need to consider whether some lower-order "transitive" and "non-collaborative" portions of corporate workforces could be shifted to the free platforms rather than provided with a normal corporate email account.
Paddon said IBM was seeing a shift towards software being provided as a service (SaaS) in the collaboration field, and had moved to address it with the launch of products like Lotus Live, which has a variety of different SaaS tiers at both the high and low end.
The executive said he didn't believe the trend would have an impact as such on Lotus Notes. "What I can see us doing, though, is leveraging our collaboration story more effectively as we see more interest in those cloud offerings," he said.