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IBM Irks Microsoft Officials, Unveils LotusLive

IBM on Monday rolled out social networking and collaboration services for businesses called "LotusLive," which integrates with IBM's venerable Lotus Notes e-mail and calendar application. The company also teamed with LinkedIn on a portal integration and announced future collaborations with Skype and Salesforce.com.

IBM's move into supplementing its installed Lotus Notes app with hosted solutions echoes the strategies being rolled out by Microsoft with its Windows Live online tools. To add fuel to the fire, last week Big Blue drew Microsoft's ire when it claimed that Lotus Notes was gaining ground on Microsoft Exchange, claiming that Lotus Notes holds a 50 percent market share among top-100 U.S. businesses.

In response, David Scult, general manager at Microsoft's Information Worker Division, pointed to other market measures, suggesting that Lotus Notes was actually losing ground to Exchange. His comments were released in a Microsoft-published Q&A.

IBM's new LotusLive augments existing IBM solutions installed at the customer's premises, according to Brendan Crotty, director of IBM Online Collaboration Services.

"We've shown some tight integration with the on-prem portfolio," Crotty said. "We want to be able to extend the reach for our customers and augment their on-prem investment with solutions in the cloud."

IBM's LotusLive Engage package includes a "click-to-cloud" feature that lets users drag and drop e-mail attachments into a LotusNotes sidebar. Those attachments then get posted and shared over the Internet as LotusLive files.

LotusLive Engage includes online tools for managing meetings and sharing files, charts and forms, but it's not just for internal use.

"Our primary strategy around online is very focused around collaboration in the extranet," Crotty said. "We want to be able to reach out across company boundaries and offer our customers…or anybody the ability to leverage our system and our core set of capabilities and collaborate with their customers and partners."

Crotty explained the "viral" marketing aspect of the LotusLive service.

"As a subscriber to LotusLive I can invite you to come in and build out your profile and start collaborating," he said. "If you decide you want to use LotusLive to collaborate with your customers and your partners or people internally, then you would need to go to a subscription model and we would update your profile to do so."

That doesn't sound like the typical enterprise business model, but Crotty explained that LotusLive was designed over the past year as small-to-medium business application.

"If you start at that level, you can always go up; if you focus at the enterprise, it's much harder to go down."

IBM's Lotus Notes and LotusLive announcements drew blood and a scornful reply from a Microsoft official.

"Why is IBM so desperate to prove that Notes is not slowly dying?  Why is IBM so scared?" wrote Julia White, Microsoft's director of Exchange marketing.

She offered some answers to her own questions.

"IBM is steadily losing market share based on more than 10 million people abandoning Lotus Notes for Exchange and SharePoint," White wrote. She contended that IBM's "hosted Notes offering is only for orgs from 1k to 10k users and is not multi-tenant cloud-computing."

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.

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