From the Lotus side of things this year was very different than last for a number of reasons. First, the message from Lotus was from Lotus. I read on another blog that there was not a single IBM logo present on the opening or closing sessions. Second, they focused on what is important: their products and their customers. There were a couple of shots taken at the competition, but the overall message was about Lotus' own offerings and how they extend business value. I already bought the Lotus collaboration vision, I don't need to be sold it again. And if I do, there were sessions that would help me, but it wasn't pervasive.
This latter point hints at a larger change in mindset at Lotus. Until now it seemed like Lotus had a hard time accepting the fact that they are a market leader, and as a result they were constantly attacking. Overall they are leading the pack, their customers believe in their vision (hence the 8 quarters of sustained growth), and it finally seems like Lotus got it. There is no need to apologize or compare, all you need to do is deliver what you promise and the rest will follow. As Mike Rhodin said in his opening keynote: "When people deliver what you need when you need it, big things happen."
With regards to sessions there were some deep dives, but in general there was much more focus on end user usability and usefulness. This mirrors Lotus' own new focus on those two factors. I think the productivity editors and composite applications are going to drive a whole new class of applications that are going to empower users to be productive in ways they never imagined.
The only disappointing part was I still don't think Lotus gets what a SMB is. Much of the upcoming architecture is going to require skillsets that SMB's are going to have a hard time affording. Installation of products other than Domino still isn't as easy as it needs to be. Websphere Portal Express shows it is possible, but even it is at a price point where no one with less than 1000 users is going to be able to seriously consider it.
If you don't like sappy stuff, skip the following. :-)
For me, personally, this week has been one of the most uplifting experiences in my life, and it is directly attributable to my own participation in the community. Last year Lotusphere was all technical for me, and I came back with some great information. This year was still primarily about the content, but there was an air of camaraderie that was only possible because of the blogging community. I don't consider myself to be on the same level as many of you technically, and I was truly humbled to be accepted into the group so readily. Many of you are luminaries in our community and to have you genuinely interested in meeting me and talking to me -- me! -- was a little overwhelming. Thank you all for being genuine, warm, and friendly people.