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3/22/14

DÉJÀ VUE – MICROSOFT REPEATING IBM’S MISTAKES


Source: SharePoint Switzerland

It’s hard to believe, Microsoft actually could learn something from IBM. And it seems, they rather don’t.

In 1995 IBM purchased Lotus Development. At the time Lotus Notes was the dominating product in what then was called ‘Groupware’ (today we would call it Social Collaboration). Bill Gates always was known to be a big fan of Lotus Notes and beating up his engineers to come up with a “Notes-killer”. For the first few years after the take-over, the market and business partners  were happy, because IBM left Lotus alone. Lotus was flourishing and brought in a lot of money. The product got better and better and we (partners) could build better and better applications.

Then the unavoidable happened and IBM “integrated” Lotus. Still, things were ok. But then IBM overvalued their influence and impact, when a new strategy (famous words) was introduced to promote IBMs DB2 and JAVA-based products: Websphere was the new kid in town and IBM Workplace was supposed to replace Notes. I went to several trainings and could not help wondering what I missed – I just never was impressed… (must have been too stupid) … anyway … Workplace is history and some poor customers still are struggling with Websphere…

The real problem however was that Lotus Notes had become the ugly duck. Whoever promoted Lotus Notes was looked down at “… poor you, haven’t you seen the signs of the times?” The results were big question marks on clients faces. The uncertainty creeped in and undermined many commitments.

This was the atmosphere when Microsoft introduced SharePoint … and yes it has taken them many years to develop a serious product. SharePoint 2010 was by many considered the first really good version. 2013 was another big improvement. The Microsoft partner community is solid and has invested in training their engineers and consultants, created products, etc… all the good things, we’ve seen before with Lotus Notes (and other products). And since November 2012 it is clear that this is going to be history soon. By introducing the 1 TB limit (over the previous 200 GB limit) for SharePoint online (only!) a few days ago, Microsoft has made clear that they are serious about their Cloud strategy.

And similar to the uncertainties among Lotus/IBM partners and clients many years ago, these days it’s the Microsoft partners and clients who are getting nervous. IT Pros will have to learn a new skill set because Office 365 is a different beast, consultants will need a brain wash, because their skills for an on-premise infrastructure are more or less useless, Programmers need to dump their C# code and redo it all in JavaScript – and clients are wondering what to do. Basically, Microsoft is telling the world: “We are going there, like it or not”.

Like IBM back then Microsoft believes their position is strong enough and there really isn’t any competition (which was not true then and is not true today). And like IBM at the time Microsoft believes that everyone is going along with them … I doubt it, and we will see.

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