Veteran software given mobile, social makeover

Decades-old applications such as Lotus Notes and AutoCAD eye continued uptake following refreshes to make these software available across multiple platforms and include social functions, company execs note.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

As the software industry transitions from boxed products with fixed licenses to mobile apps with a different pricing and delivery model, vendors such as IBM and Autodesk recognize the need to remake their much-used but older software to stay relevant and drive continued growth.

Christopher Blake, collaboration executive at IBM Asean, noted a shift occurring among enterprises worldwide where social and enterprise collaborative software are becoming vital business tools to enable organizations to transform virtually every part of their business operations.

"Social business and collaboration software offer the world of possibility that occurs when all the energy and opportunities that have been generated around consumer models such as Facebook and Twitter are focused and brought to bear on addressing business challenges," Blake said.

Mike Colombo, senior director of marketing for Asia-Pacific at Autodesk, also pointed out the importance of ensuring accessibility across platforms.

"We will continue to increase the options for our users to easily access either industry- or locale-specific apps built on AutoCAD, and connect with the huge user community," he stated.

ZDNet Asia spoke to Big Blue and Autodesk as well as Nuance to find out how their decades-old software--Lotus Notes, AutoCAD and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, respectively--have been doing in the changing software landscape and the roadmaps drawn up to keep these offerings relevant in the market.

IBM's Lotus Notes
Competition in the e-mail and collaboration market continues to grow as relative newcomers that include Google, with its Google Apps offering, challenge market incumbents such as IBM and Microsoft, but Blake noted that enterprise users have taken to IBM's direction in embracing social business and collaboration transformation.

"Whether accessing [e-mail] applications on-premise, from a mobile or in the cloud, social businesses of all sizes need to communicate and collaborate on-the-fly across a global network of clients, partners and employees," he stated.

"We are very proud of our standing in all of these areas and…since our release of IBM Lotus Notes [in 1989] and Domino 8.5, we have seen the faster take-up of the evolving platform within our existing and new clients."

He added that for the next iteration of Notes and Domino, Big Blue will be looking to make its software more consistent and interoperable across a wide range of other collaboration products and mobile and tablet devices.

The evolution roadmap includes the movement toward activity streams as a way of aggregating and propagating information, similar to social networking sites such as Facebook, he said. It also encompasses the ability to collaborate beyond the organization's existing boundaries to include key clients, suppliers and partners, as well as the flexibility to weave collaboration services throughout a broad range of their business processes, Blake said.

"These elements will enable a business to react rapidly to changing market conditions and, thereby, gain a competitive edge through the strategic deployment of collaboration services [such as Lotus Notes]," he surmised.

Autodesk's AutoCAD
Launched in December 1982, design software AutoCAD today has a user base of more than 10 million and remains one of the world's leading two- and three-dimension computer-aided design tools, Colombo told ZDNet Asia.

Its longevity in a fast-changing software landscape can be attributed to the company's ability to adapt to prevailing technology trends, he said. For instance, in 2010, the company brought AutoCAD back to Apple's Mac platform as well as introduced AutoCAD WS, a cloud-based application that allows users to work from anywhere, anytime. The latter, in particular, is now used by over 2.5 million people worldwide, he added.

This year, Autodesk introduced a new family of design and creation suites in one package that is "more cost-effective and easier to install, deploy and manage than individual products", Colombo said. The benefits of such a package include making it easier for customers to standardize across multiple departments and provide greater flexibility in response to changing business requirements, he added.

Asked how AutoCAD will continue to evolve in the coming years, he said cloud computing, documentation of ideas and increased accessibility through companion apps will be the company's main priorities.

With regard to apps, he noted that the new in-product marketplace--comprising companion apps from third-party developers--allows users to immediately browse, download and purchase more than 150 apps from within AutoCAD.

Within the Asia-Pacific region, localized content will play a key role in advancing the design software, Colombo said. In China, for example, the AutoCAD EX was introduced this year to meet the specific needs of the local market. Available for free, the offering is delivered via cloud computing and aims to help Chinese users create and edit .DWG design files, he added.

Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking
The software was first introduced to the market in July 1997 as a continuous speech-and-voice recognition program with a vocabulary of 23,000 words. Since then, "millions of copies of Dragon software" have since been sold by Nuance, which bought over the rights to the technology from by its makers, James and Janet Baker, according to Peter Mahoney, the company's senior vice president and general manager of Dragon.

He added that sales of the software have "accelerated in the last few years" and is one of the fastest growing software titles according to NPD Group, although Nuance declined to share specific sales figures.

In terms of developing the product, Mahoney pointed out that the Dragon product family now supports Windows, Mac and mobile operating systems, and this expansion is expected to continue in the coming years.

He added that customers can expect to see the company's focus on accuracy in future products as well as increased ease of use and more intelligence in the software.

"Tomorrow's Dragon will accurately do what you want it to do, even if you aren't very clear with your request," he said. "Customers can also expect to see more languages, more [supported] platforms and better support for noisy and mobile environments."

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