Microsoft, IBM Execs On Collaboration

Gurdeep Singh Pall, Corporate Vice President For Microsoft&'S Realtime Collaboration Group, Recently Spoke With Industry Editor Barbara Darrow At Interop In New York.

CRN: Can you talk about VAR opportunities with the new Office Communicator Web Access client?

PALL: Customers [want] to integrate presence and IM [instant messaging] into their apps, a lot of which are written in multitier architectures where you have portals and are mostly accessed through the browser. Communicator Web Access is built on AJAX, [and that means] you can actually take AJAX controls and embed them into portals and into apps, which we think is incredibly powerful. That&'s a big opportunity. Integrators are doing a lot of the work in building, maintaining and updating these apps.

CRN: The plan was to converge Live Communications Server and Live Meeting architecture over time. PALL: I can&'t discuss time frames, but it&'s something we&'re actively working on.

CRN: Microsoft has a variety of realtime stuff, some overlapping between MSN and your group. Can you parse it?

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PALL: MSN is focused on consumers; the scenarios are buddies and friends and friends of friends, exchanging pictures [and/or] personal information between families or individuals. We&'re focused on information workers, anything that has to do with info workers and IT managers.

CRN: How much of the realtime collaboration stuff will stay separate, and how much will flow into the Vista or Longhorn operating systems? PALL: There&'s an evolution; as solutions come out [they are] much more integrated around the scenario. Then the platform will start emerging with provider interfaces, with apps on the top and [service] providers on the bottom, then sort of a middleware platform [in between]. I suspect many components will be built that way in the future. Now we&'ll focus on making sure the right scenarios can be enabled. At the same time, we&'re mindful of platforms. This whole AJAX thing we did in Communicator Web Access was to make sure whenever there&'s an interesting opportunity for integration that we have a platform for the customer.

CRN: Google is expected to come out with calendaring and other things that will encroach on your realm. Which competitors worry you?

PALL: Google has promised a lot, some things are in perpetual beta. But they are in a different segment at this time at least. IBM is probably the most traditional competitor we have. I can see over time, as convergence happens, some others. Oracle is aspiring in the collaboration space, folks like Webex in point solutions, Jabber in IM.

CRN: IBM had Sametime [enterprise IM] out early, but it seems not to be a big emphasis now.

PALL: It&'s hard to speculate [on what] IBM is doing with Sametime, I know there was realignment from Lotus to Workplace.Mike Rhodin, General Manager For Workplace, Portal And Collaboration Software At IBM, Spoke With Darrow Before This Week&'s Lotusphere About Project Hannover And Plans For The Show.

CRN: What&'s the status of Project Hannover, the next release of Notes/Domino? RHODIN: Some of this is a tit-for-tat game with Microsoft. Every time we ship a release, they send out an announcement that it&'s the last release. Four straight times they&'ve sent that out since I&'ve been here, and this time we pre-empted them. We talked about Hannover right before we shipped [Notes/Domino] 7 so they couldn&'t say that. The 7 release was primarily focused on [total cost of ownership], security, scalability, administration capabilities, what our IT shops are telling us needed to be done.

With Hannover, we said this is all about end users. We&'re coming out with stuff for IT shops, but we wanted to get that the focus has squarely shifted to end users.

CRN: You&'re not narrowing support to 64-bit servers? RHODIN: No. We&'ve been doing 64-bit, but we&'ll continue 32-bit support.

CRN: Microsoft&'s argument for stopping 32-bit support on Exchange 12 is that you can&'t find a 32-bit server.

RHODIN: A new one. If you&'re trying to drive a hardware upgrade, [then] that&'s the statement you&'ll make. The reality is there are a lot of 32-bit servers out there running both Microsoft and Lotus software, and I&'m not going to be standing here saying you have to buy new hardware just because you want to go to my next release of software. That&'s a choice you make on your operations, your administration. We&'ll continue to deliver choice and flexibility on that.

CRN: How does AJAX fit?

RHODIN: It fits right in. AJAX is a style of development, but building AJAX components is non-trivial. The really good AJAX applications are handcrafted by experts. The thing that&'s been missing is simple tooling. You&'re going to see us start to extend Workplace Designer with some AJAX capabilities. We already have some AJAX-style componentry. If you look at UI for [WebSphere Services Express] the palettes that slide in and out, the drag and drop, that&'s AJAX-style things and have been there for awhile.

CRN: Some say five years out, mail will not be a differentiator and more customers will outsource it to put resources on IT areas where they can differentiate. Comments?

RHODIN: I view e-mail as a mission-critical commodity. It&'s both. Different companies, based on regulatory posture, have to do things differently. Some organizations under heavy compliance, will want to maintain control of the data. If you use Gmail as corporate e-mail, what happens if it goes out of business, do you have access to the data? Maybe, maybe not. But for some companies, where e-mail is just a casual communications tool, outsourcing may be appropriate.