Lotus Notes is not exactly the best-loved product on the planet. But tomorrow's official announcement of LotusLive Notes is still noteworthy, mainly because IBM is serious about gaining back some ground from Microsoft Exchange by offering Notes email -- along with LotusLive collaboration and social networking capabilities -- as a set of IBM-hosted cloud services.
Hey, it's the cloud! Everything old is new again.
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As you may know, Microsoft has been offering its own Live versions of Exchange and SharePoint, served up via the cloud by Microsoft itself, since 2008. A year ago, IBM jumped in the game with iNotes, a Web email product with a subset of Notes' features that targeted small businesses. Sean Poulley, IBM's vice president of cloud collaboration for Lotus Software, told me that tomorrow's announcement heralds "full-blown, enterprise-class email" run by IBM for $5 per user per month.
The deluxe version, the LotusLive Suite, adds enterprise social networking capabilities and file-sharing to the email value proposition for a total of $10 per user per month. Employees can create user profiles, fire up online meetings, try a little lightweight project management, share files (with an interface Poulley describes as closer to iTunes than SharePoint), and engage in collaborative data visualization (the latter based on the very cool Many Eyes technology).
For the most part, only small businesses have warmed to the idea of someone else handling their email as a cloud-based service. But Poulley sincerely believes IBM will change that. He sees three potential types of enterprise customers: 1) those who want to reduce the total cost of running core infrastructure, 2) those who "don't run those systems very well," and 3) those who want to add additional capabilities in the form of the full LotusLive collaboration suite, but would prefer that IBM handle it.