Back To The Future: Ozzie Stars At Lotusphere

Ray Ozzie

Ozzie, who founded Iris Associates--the startup funded by Lotus Development to create Notes--returned to Lotusphere after eight years Monday morning. The occasion? Notes turned 20 in December, and IBM's Lotus Software group clearly feels a need to celebrate the Notes and Domino franchise after casting its future in doubt three years ago.

Ozzie was greeted by a standing ovation of a few thousand partners and customers gathered in Orlando. "By the time we were acquired, Lotus had only sold about 2 million [Notes] licenses," he told attendees. "Without IBM's commitment and strong partners, Notes almost surely would have faded. Now that's grown to nearly 120 million with a healthy and vibrant partner ecosystem, and to me this is staggering."

While many Notes diehards were thrilled to see Ozzie, who enjoys cult status in their midst, some were also puzzled. For one thing, Microsoft--which battles Notes with Exchange Server--owns a good chunk of Groove Networks, Ozzie's post-Lotus venture.

"I'm really not sure what the message was there," said Steve Chan, vice president of business development at ZipLip, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based software developer that works both sides of the IBM/Lotus and Microsoft divide.

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Another attendee said Ozzie's presence at the show after so long an absence made him think that Notes' glory days are over.

As for Lotusphere news, much of it dealt with products that the company has already discussed. IBM said its long-promised Notes/Domino 7 release, with better integration of IBM Workplace components, will ship this summer. IBM execs promised that the new Notes/Domino 7 release will support more than 70 percent more users on the same hardware and touted a new "autonomic" tool, Domino Domain monitoring, to ease troubleshooting.

As expected, the company also focused on the new Activity Explorer component of Workplace Collaboration Services 2.5. The new set of collaborative services, due at the end of the quarter, will also sport a new per-CPU pricing model, IBM executives said.

Where the current Workplace release charges per component, the new 2.5 will let users deploy any and all components they can from a single CPU for one price. The actual pricing will be announced at ship time, IBM executives said.

Also featured were demonstrations of the new Workplace Designer and Domino Designer toolsets.

IBM/Lotus executives continued to pledge their support for third-party ISVs and other partners, a message that resonated with at least some attendees.

"I'm impressed by the core IBM guys with how aggressive and motivated they are to work with ISVs," said ZipLip's Chan. "We were scared at first to deal with such a large company, but they have been totally devoted to this model."

This story was updated Tuesday morning with more Workplace information.