Monday, September 08, 2008

Why IBM & Google share the same vision

There's no doubt that most people with any kind of computing background would agree that the most forward-looking and influential IT company in the world today is Google, some may say Apple but most would say Google.

Microsoft, once an industry unto itself no longer holds that coveted position. They didn't so much lose direction as, fail to take the correct turns along the route to today's platforms.

While the world is heading towards open source, platform independence and service orientated architecture, Microsoft is more tightly bound to proprietary systems on the windows platform than ever before.

A little whinge about IBM's Marketing
So where is IBM in all this? Well, to be perfectly frank, they're not in the sweetest of spots even though they deserve to be. Why? Because although in my opinion, IBM's technology is more than a match for Google's, they haven't yet caught the attention of "Joe Public". Their marketing team has the "killer suite" on their hands but doesn't seem to know how to sell it.

What's weird is that it's been demonstrated over and over again that the way forward is to catch the attention of the home users and get them to push the technology to business users. Apple and Microsoft both did this in the past by selling technology cheaply to schools. Microsoft made the enormous gains with Outlook and Internet Explorer by making them free to home users. More recently, Apple has focussed the attention of initiatives like the iPod and the iPhone firmly upon non-business users. These users frequently come to work and ask "when we're going to start buying Macs" because they're "so easy to use".

Also recently, the Open Source community has made a lot of headway with Mozilla and Open Office by making these things available to the public, while Google's initiatives in turning most of their apps over to "Joe Public" for testing have seen them take a position of dominance.

IBM on the other hand, has always taken a top-down approach. They believe that the business comes first and seem to have forgotten that all CEOs and CIOs have children, relatives and friends who will be very influential in their opinions of technology. There's no way that these people will be recommending Notes/Domino when they haven't ever seen the product. I'm not suggesting that the Notes client needs to be free but I am suggesting that a cut down version of it, (or a web version of it) with some basic online services available, would be a good start. If nothing else, IBM deserves a bit of recognition for Symphony.

Back on Topic
So, if Google's strategy represents the future, why then do I believe that IBM's Technology is right on target? Well, if we consider the web browser (and in particular, Google Chrome) to be the glue in the google "cloud computing" system... what then is the Notes Client in the IBM strategy?

Have a look at this picture comparing the two;

At the top, we have Google Chrome, running a Home Page, Email (Gmail), Calendar (Google Calendar), RSS Reader (Google Reader), Document Editors (Google Docs), Web Pages and a Blogging Tool (Blogger).

At the bottom we have the Notes 8.0.2 client running.... a home page, Email, Calendar, RSS Reader (sidebar), Document Editors (Symphony), Web Pages (built-in browser), and a Blogging Tool (OpenNTF BlogSphere).

Funnily enough, the strategy is very much the same - and IBM got there first!

Even the home page on Chrome is amazingly similar to the IBM Lotus Notes Welcome Page.

I've left off a lot of other comparisons, like Google Talk vs Sametime and Google Desktop vs IBM Omnifind. I'm sure Google probably does a couple of extra things that Notes/Domino doesn't but I'm equally certain that Notes/Domino does a lot more that Google isn't able to do at all. In particular, databases, a development platform, replication, clustering and access control management.

I've often said that the main gap in the Google strategy is to provide a secure platform which can be hosted at a business site rather than online. I'm sure that such an appliance is in the works and will eventually emerge. In the meantime however, IBM already has a proven solution available and if an OS is required, they have Foundations as well.

Now, if only they could capture the attention of the common people.


Tony Palmer said...

The chrome homepage did feel strangely familiar. I was disappointed when I couldn't arrange the icons though!


g said...

You're totally right Gavin. I loved soooo much Lotus Notes when I was in uni, I clicked on every single button just to see what it did, but sadly after graduating never found something similar 'til now with all the Google apps.
And yes, IBM was there first.