Last week, IBM/Lotus unveiled a beta of LotusLive Engage, a bundle of services that includes Web mail, instant messaging, Web conferencing, file sharing, charts, and forms. IBM/Lotus promised other bundles targeted at specific industries and needs, or a la carte delivery of services. IBM/Lotus officials would only say the pieces would be released throughout 2009.
To start, however, many analysts panned Engage as ill-defined, immature, and reactionary.
"It is a work in progress," said Kathleen Reidy, senior analyst with the 451 Group.
"Last year, Bluehouse was about SMB, but this year it is how you extend internal investments to the external cloud. So is it SMB or an extension for enterprise customers to do extranets? Can you do both at once with this new service? Those are two different markets."
Another big question was around LotusLive iNotes, a lightweight messaging service that will be based on Outblaze Web mail technology and not Notes/Domino.
IBM/Lotus acquired the technology on Jan. 15 and inserted it into the LotusLive lineup just a few days before its unveiling. Left out was the company's own Notes-based Web e-mail technology.
Lotus officials said Outblaze includes a distributed administration technology and branding options IBM/Lotus lacked.
"We wanted to go a step further and do distribution models with telcos and other resellers, which is a key part of our strategy, or do private labeling or co-branding," says Sean Poulley, vice president of online collaboration service for Lotus Software. "We don't have those skills yet in our business so it makes sense to get additional intellectual property, assets and skills and integrate that." In addition, Outblaze brings along 40 million users.
But getting those assets means they have to be integrated into the platform.
"On the tech side, they are stitching together a lot of different moving parts," says Matt Cain, an analyst with Gartner. "With Engage you have Sametime for IM, Outblaze for e-mail, and activities from Lotus Connections. Delivering a platform stitched together from many parts and making it elegant is tough."
Others called LotusLive a panicked response to recent online collaboration moves by Microsoft, Cisco, and Google.
"It all indicates a lack of vision, a lack of a common architecture and I am not very impressed," said David Ferris, president and senior analyst with Ferris Research.
Outside of the analysts, some Lotusphere attendees also gave LotusLive a lukewarm reception.
Rene Vandal, a systems integrator with Telefilm Canada, said his company was busy building a WebSphere portal. "LotusLive looks interesting, but I don't think we'll have a solution like that."
An IT architect from a financial services firm, who requested anonymity, said his company was too wrapped up in a migration from Notes 6.5 to even think twice about LotusLive.
But it wasn't all cat-calling last week.
At Lotusphere, IBM/Lotus unveiled partnerships with LinkedIn, Salesforce.com and Skype that will integrate those services into LotusLive. The partnerships provide an example of the extensibility of the platform, according to IBM/Lotus officials.