Lotus Knows… but who knows Lotus??

For some time Lotus (the IBM software company) was running the following commercial in New York taxis. Frankly I was amazed that IBM/Lotus did this because I am not so sure that we all still know Lotus, what Lotus knows or whether anybody in a taxi really cares.

This is the commercial:

All viewers who were really really really interested in what Lotus all knows (or just wanted to make sure this is not a big brother is watching you program) and actually did visit the advertised url www.lotusknows.com got forwarded to an IBM page. That page I would not recommend to any body except for those who already know what Lotus knows:

I felt sorry for Lotus. Lotus is one of those software companies that has (had?) good products and a good vision.  The problem is that they have been either to early in the market with their products or simply bet on the wrong technology.

Remember Lotus 1-2-3, the famous spreadsheet released in 1983 and died probably for the masses around 1995 or so. Reason was that Lotus did not see the market for integrated software package coming. When it did realize and brought Lotus SmartSuite to the market it was all too late since Microsoft had won the game.

During the 90’s Lotus became also known for Lotus Notes. A groupware environment that allowed employees to work together and easily share information, even when offline. Lotus was betting on knowledge management, intranets etc. Sounds familiar? Yes, that is what we today call Intranet or Internet functionality combined with all the plenty of free open source packages.

The groupware concept was taken one step further in 1997 with Lotus SameTime. It was not only instant messaging, but also application sharing, white boarding etc. The product was in the beginning very much linked to Lotus Notes which stalled uptake.

Then came end of the 90’s (1998 or so?) the Lotus eSuite Workplace, similar to what we call today Google Docs or Google Spreadsheet. A great concept just too early in the market. The product died too early. Browsers were not really ready, people were not ready to work web based.

And now more than 10 years later Lotus knows what we need to know. I love the statements and vision. But do I need Lotus for that?


What is the lesson? Make sure you have the right product in terms of functionality and ecosystem integration at the right time in the market. That is when the world is ready to enjoy it. Easier said than done!

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