Daniel Lyons, a writer at Forbes.com, published an article yesterday about IBM's denial over the death of Lotus Notes. As an industry analyst myself, I know firsthand (a) the difficulties of doing valid and reliable global market snapshot research, and (b) the various positions of bias that are possible. Secondly, upfront, as an industry analyst at Shared Spaces Research & Consulting, IBM has never paid me a dime! It was under the Shared Spaces umbrella that I wrote a response to two poor pieces of analyst research last year.
Here are two problems that I have with Dan's piece.
Para. 4., "Exchange ... [is] displacing Notes/Domino, which once dominated e-mail and was the main reason IBM paid $3.2 billion to acquire Lotus in 1995". Well, actually, IBM purchased Lotus for Notes as a groupware and application middleware platform, not as an email platform. At the time of the acquisition, Lotus had 2 million seats of Notes in the market, compared with cc:Mail (another Lotus product via an earlier acquisition) which had 9 million users. Microsoft had Microsoft Mail; Exchange wasn't even around until Exchange 4.0 in April 1996.
Para. 12., "Notes consultants have resorted to bashing market researchers who say Notes is slipping, suggesting on blogs that these analysts are extreme outliers who lack credibility and/or are shills who were paid off by Microsoft". So what are the facts at play here? From my perspective, there was a reaction last year against two pieces of research, one by the Radicati Group, and the other by the META Group. In turn:
- The Radicati Group published a comparative market sizing report, comparing Exchange Server and IBM's offerings. In my response, I said at the time that it was "a headline grabbing publication lacking analytical rigor, logic and appropriate follow-through. The paper is unbelievable in this respect, making me wonder whether it is really an independent publication, or marketing material sponsored by Microsoft. The author seeks to compare two platforms that are entirely different in terms of scope and imagination, and then recommends a path for clients. I strongly believe that the author entirely misses the point, is totally wrong in the commentary on Microsoft's messaging strategy, and therefore provides market share growth figures that are just plain wrong." I didn't leave it at that, however, but went through the report step-by-step and outlined my concerns. What I expected in return, and felt that the market would benefit from, was a response from Radicati about why my points were invalid, but instead people within Radicati started "astroturfing", by leaving critical comments on different blogs under false names. It would have been really interesting if Dan Lyons had discovered who had IP address 184.108.40.206 at the time, since it was from that address that much naughtiness took place. You can see my theory here.
- The META Group published a total cost of ownership comparison between Exchange Server 2003 and various versions of IBM Lotus Notes/Domino. The report appeared as though it was authored by the analysts at META Group, and was paid for by META. After my response was posted and discussed at various places, it was revealed by META that, well, actually, in all honesty, it was done on the consulting side of the house, and was, um, actually, paid for Microsoft, and it was, well, kind of a first cut, and well, it wasn't perfect. But, META promised to "update" the report ... something which it hasn't done, and won't do now, due to being acquired by Gartner. In other words, META acknowledged that they lacked credibility and were a shill paid off by Microsoft for this piece of "supposedly independent analyst research". Dan should have realized this from his research, and posted as much.
I don't have a vested interest in which of the two products win. They both excel in their own areas. I will go on the record again as stating that I believe that IBM's overall strategy for the collaboration market is on much more solid ground than Microsoft's. The Lyons article doesn't add anything to the arguments at play.