The IBM loss of University of Nebraska - the missing piece of the discussion

July 6 2011

There has been a bunch of discussion about The University of Nebraska dropping the use of their in-house IBM Lotus Notes implementation and deciding on a cloud based solution. Tom Duff was the first to write about it on PL, and Palmi Lord wrote about it.  It seems that Google and Microsoft were the only two players in the game and that Microsoft 'paid' U of N $25,000 to get the deal. I say 'paid' because giving incentives to close a software deal is what every software company out there does. That part really does not bother me. We should stop focusing on that.

The university issue is a big one, but not what worries me. It seems that Google and Microsoft want to fight it out for the education and not-for-profit spaces with the lowest possible prices. I have never seen IBM play at the low end. I realize people in that space will disagree, but I think that space is outside of IBM's comfort zone, even if we had the marketing backing of the IBM Collaboration Services products that we all dream about.

What worries me most is that University of Nebraska seemed to be a hot bed of research that used IBM technologies. Anyone remember the two students who won Lotusphere Idol in 2009? Nate and Matt were from the University of Nebraska. I remember Brent talking about how he was working with a professor there to get more people involved, during their college education, working with Lotus technologies. This migration will impact that.

I am not a fear monger. I do believe that people will use tools other than their daily email platform for research and education. I also think that once someone is hired, they use the internal platforms far more than they don't. But this is one of those cases where I think the long term game was worth IBM going in and making a strong economical case for the University of Nebraska to keep using IBM software.

I am and have always been a fan of IBM Lotus technologies and that will not change. But I really think it is time that we take a hard look at the software products in the ICS portfolio and see how they integrate with Google Apps, Microsoft 360, LotusLive, and IBM Connections. It pains me to say it, but I can see a day where the Notes client is not longer the leading product in terms of strategy and sales. With all of our cross brand experience, maybe this is a place PSC can lead and help the community. Something for me to think on.