As the man who decided in 1996 that IBM should pit its Deep Blue supercomputer against the then chess world champion Garry Kasparov, Ambouj Goyal is used to thinking strategically. Now charged with heading up IBM's Lotus software division, Goyal is going to need all his powers of perception to go head to head with Microsoft in the play for domination of the collaboration-software market.
Since IBM acquired Lotus in 1995, it has been trying to integrate the company's software with its own Websphere J2EE middleware platform. IBM sees it as natural fit and argues there is no difference between how people interact with a portal and what they do with collaboration software.
The marriage between Websphere and Lotus is being integrated under the umbrella of IBM's new Workplace platform – which is an overall plan to add J2EE Web services functionality to various IBM productivity tools.
But not everyone is on-message when it comes to the intertwined future of Websphere and Lotus. Analyst firm The Radicati Group recently produced a report claiming that, although innovative, the new Workplace strategy will actually damage rather than rejuvenate Lotus. The organisation claims that Lotus customers are concerned with the 'momentous task of migrating Lotus Domino data and applications to the J2EE-based Workplace platform'.
ZDNet caught up with Dr Goyal to find out which is the bigger challenge: convincing customers that Workplace rather than Exchange is the future of messaging, or taking on a grand master at his own game.
What did you make of the Radacti report? Do you think that they have a point about the whole Workplace strategy and the upgrade path for Notes/Domino being rather ambiguous at the moment?
Their conclusions don't make sense to me at all. Radicati are one of the companies that six or eight months ago reported the exact opposite of what they are saying now and the input was exactly the same. If the input remains the same and their output changes dramatically, then I have a basic problem with their conclusions.
Why do you think they are so way-out on their numbers, particularly regarding your steady loss of market share to Microsoft Exchange -- which they claim is a much more focused product?
Ask them why did they change? I announced at Lotusphere that over 1500 customers migrated from competitive platforms last year.
With server consolidation, customers are typically moving from multiple small servers to one or two larger machines. If you are a caught in a box and say 'whoops, I can't do it because my environment runs only in Windows', then you slow down the server consolidation the customer wants to do. Since our Domino environment runs across multiple servers -- you can choose Windows, Unix, Linux, AIX or even mainframe -- when customers are doing server consolidation they are doing Domino. Server consolidation is one of the reasons why customers are switching, the next is platform choice and flexibility, and the third is security.