Maureen Shaffer, vice president of marketing for InSet Technologies, spoke at the LotusLive keynote to tout her small company's participation in the early-adopter program.
"I had been looking at Salesforce, Google Apps, and all sorts of different online solutions and I found I was going to have to pick pieces from different vendors and that it was going to be awkward to put together," said Shaffer, whose company lacks an IT staff.
She says the slate of LotusLive offerings in Engage are "fast and easy to use."
InSet mostly uses online Web conferencing, but also taps into file and contact sharing. Shaffer says she was pulled into the LotusLive program by Lotus partner Prolifiq.
"We just added our 17th employee today," she said. "So we are not in IBM's sweet spot."
And some analysts said LotusLive showed a lot of forethought on IBM's part, including using the Eclipse platform as the foundation to tie together not only IBM software but wares from third-parties as well.
"The vision they showed was comprehensive and beyond where I thought they were going six months ago," said Robert Mahowald, an analyst with IDC. "What IBM has built by adding social software and Symphony shows me this is a taking-the-gloves-off approach."
IBM/Lotus will need to get those gloves off if it plans to make a run in the crowded online collaboration services battle.
Studies from Ferris Research, IDC, Gartner, and others show that IBM/Lotus is losing ground in its on-premise software fight with Microsoft. Just last week, Gartner said Microsoft was widening its lead over IBM/Lotus.
If that trend continues, the online market could be key to IBM/Lotus's future success in the collaboration space. Gartner predicts that by 2012, 20 percent of e-mail seats will be hosted. With that kind of growth the time to react is short.
"If you look at Microsoft, Google or Zimbra it took them about 18 to 24 months to get their services out there," said Karen Hobert, an independent consultant. "I'm thinking that IBM is in the middle of that cycle. If they get past the 24-month mark, if they don't make that window with a clear offering, they could be in trouble."
Hobert said one idea might be for IBM in that time to create online brands instead of traditional products/services. The brands would be based around functional areas such as a Notes messaging brand, a Connections social networking brand, a Quickr content management brand. Such a design could help IBM appeal to any size customer regardless of their needs.
"Potentially in the next year and a half we could have Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Yahoo, and Google competing for all the hosted enterprise business. That would be an interesting time," she said.
Network World is an InfoWorld affiliate.