Tuesday, March 13, 2007

cool is king

In a recent article on Computerworld, Mike Elgan discusses the decline and fall of the Palm empire. One snippet stood out in my mind:
HP fails in the smart-phone market in part because of an institutionalized delusion, common at most big and old Silicon Valley companies, that enterprises buy smart phones based on security, back-end infrastructure support and integration with enterprise systems in general.

Yes, those things are important. But in the smart-phone market, cool is king, even at the biggest companies. RIM does a great job supporting business goals. But RIM is No. 1 because people "love" their BlackBerries. Palm is No. 2 (but dropping fast) because people "love" (or used to love) their Treos.
I think this is succinctly describes what has happened with Lotus in the last decade or so. Lotus was acquired by IBM, who has made a business out of huge incomprehensible systems, so they applied their bloat theory to Notes. While they were working on robust backends Microsoft, Google, Zimbra and a whole host of other vendors have been killing Lotus where it matters most: mindshare.

I don't want to turn this into another Lotus marketing sucks meme, because this isn't about marketing. It's about doing something cool that inspires people. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that Microsoft has poured a lot of innovation into the user experience in Outlook. Finally Lotus caught the clue bus. They devoted a ton of resources to making Notes 8 actually look good and not be such an odd duck.

I sat in Andre Guirard and Marc Jourdain's presentation at Lotusphere where they highlighted what was new in Domino Designer. I was amazed at some of the new functionality, but the features they demonstrated were taken out of context to highlight individual changes and improvements. This was really cool, but it was only part of the story.

Later in the week I attended Mary Beth Raven's presentation on designing the user interface. That's when I got the rest of the story. Everything Andre showed was directly linked to the work Mary Beth's team had done. I asked Mary Beth how much latitude they had when doing their designs, and was surprised when she said they were pretty much given carte blanche to do what was necessary, and development had the herculean task of making it happen.

Until I saw Andre's presentation describing the enhancements to the development environment I was going on the premise that you'd have to use Java to get the functionality of the new mail template. Seeing it all put together in Mary Beth's presentation really drove home the scope of the work involved. Not only did they redesign the Notes user experience, development had to create the tools to build it.

The amount of work put forth by Andre Guirard and his team is staggering and as a result Notes 8 looks abso-freaking-lutely fantastic! There's still a lot of work to be done, a lot of warts that need to be polished, but I'm thrilled to be working with Notes right now. That's a far cry from where I was a few months ago.

P.S. If this sounds too fanboy for some, don't despair. I've got some branding irons in the fire. Be afraid, Ed. Be very afraid. ;-)


  1. did I mention that I'm going to be on the road for ten days? :-o

  2. Charles - I don't know if I have read a better 'review' of two sessions at 'Sphere. Most are taken at face value, with little context. Nice post.

  3. Charles, send over the irons I'll meet with Ed while is on the road ;-)