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Silly Technology Scuffles

<soapbox topic=”technology” comments=”I really don’t like to get into this, but…”>
Coke vs. Pepsi. Toyota vs. GM. The list of battles in the marketplace are long and distinguished. Today we have IBM Lotus vs. Microsoft. Analysts and pundits have been proclaiming “Notes is Dead” for a long time. For me, a product is “dead” once I stop making money or finding value in it. So, thanks for the Monty Python imagery, Forbes – but I disagree with your simplistic approach to the question.
With Coke vs. Pepsi, the question was which tastes better? We had the Pepsi challenge, and let’s not forget the horrendous introduction of “New Coke“. The battle between Toyota and GM has been over quality and value. So where does that leave the battle between Lotus and Microsoft?
To read the analysts, the battle is over who has more seats. This just seems ridiculous to me. We have the Radicati Group coming out with market share projections every 6 to 12 months showing IBM losing market share. Well, is the market growing, or is their installed base shrinking? And why should I care as a technology manager? IBM continued support for OS/2 10 years beyond its relevancy in the marketplace. If new versions of Notes stopped at release 7, that would not negate the value in the applications that I had deployed up to that point. The quote on the Radicati home page says “We provide companies with the information they need to be successful and compete effectively.” I don’t need my MBA degree to know that just because it seems like ‘everyone else is doing it’ it does not mean it is a good idea for me to do it.
Email is a commodity. If anyone tries to tell you differently, they are full of it. What happens in a commodity market? The lowest price wins. Sure, there are ways to differentiate yourself based on service, product availability, speed of delivery, etc. – but when it comes to email, you can’t really differentiate yourself there.
So I guess Microsoft (or the analyst community) is trying to present themselves as the low cost provider of email. Great. What else can you do for me? Apparently not much without buying a bunch of extra products (Sharepoint, SQL Server, etc). So is the value proposition the same between Exchange and Domino? No. With Lotus Domino (and Workplace) you not only have a core messaging system, but you also have a product that you can build collaborative applications on top of.
Do you only need email? For a lot of companies, the answer is yes. Great. Go buy Exchange. Or better yet, just outsource your email to Yahoo! or another online provier. That will be even cheaper since you won’t spend a pant load of time every week fending off every virus that propagates through Exchange.
But if your competitive value is based on knowledge and you have more than 100 employees, you really need more than just email. Is Notes or Workplace the answer? I can’t tell you without knowing your actual situation. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and no two customers are exactly alike. Anyone who thinks that the decision is clear-cut like the crowd I’ve been reading lately wants you to believe must eat at Subway a lot ’cause they’re full of baloney.
Oh – and if you are thinking about switching systems, feel free to drop me an email and we’ll talk it through. This is more like Coke vs. Pepsi (an issue of taste) than Toyota vs. GM (an issue of standard products differentiated by features and economic value). Switching costs can be quite high and there are no doubt better ways to invest those dollars in growth opportunities rather than just getting just a sweeter tasting soft drink.

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