The news that everyone will probably be talking about at the annual Lotusphere trade show in Orlando next week already happened. Lotus President and CEO Jeffrey Papows pre-empted show news when he announced that he is resigning as of Feb. 1.
Al Zollar, general manager of the IBM network computing software division will take over as Lotus chief. IBM owns the Cambridge, Mass. software maker. Analysts and industry observers have said that Zollar's appointment is an indication that IBM is going to become more of a presence within Lotus, which is going head-to-head competitively with its Notes groupware product against Microsoft's Exchange software.
Microsoft officials like to point out that IBM is a much bigger company, and analysts who follow Lotus think that IBM is about to pick up that mantle with regard to Lotus, emphasizing the connection and the power of the parent company. Indications of whether that is true could well emerge at Lotusphere, which runs Sunday through Thursday, if IBM takes on a larger presence than in the past.
Papows' timing certainly seems strange in light of its proximity to Lotusphere and the likelihood that his news would steal center stage. He typically delivers the opening keynote address; it undoubtedly will be even more crowded than usual. Lotus executives will face the press Monday afternoon in a session that could be particularly noteworthy.
Papows was on the media hot seat last year after a stinging investigative story in the Wall Street Journal alleging that he fabricated parts of his resume and his military and personal history. However, that brouhaha died down quickly and the company wound up having another good year.
Lotus is expected to reveal that its base of Notes users soared again, reaching as many as 50 million. Analysts count the number as somewhat lower, but say that nonetheless, the software continues to be a big seller.
Show visitors can expect to hear updates regarding R/5, the latest release of Notes (and perhaps also will be able to get some help with ongoing bugs, including slowness and problems with multitasking), and the future of Notes, as well as a Domino update.
Other expected news will involve the company's knowledge management suite, codenamed Raven, expected out by midyear. At a recent meeting with IDG reporters and editors, company officials said that Raven's user interface is being redesigned. A look at the new design could come next week.
Papows unveiled Raven at Lotusphere in Berlin last October. The basic idea behind the software suite is to let workers find information sources and data using content tracking and analysis techniques. Lotus claims that the product will save time - and users at the show in Germany say they are looking forward to giving it a try.
Lotus also plans to offer updates about its e-business platform and provide insight into what clients are doing with the company's products.
Otherwise, various third-party vendors will be making announcements at the show regarding software applications for the Domino platform and for Notes. Many of those announcements will relate to enhancements of existing products.
Exhibitors at the show will include Percussion Software, UUNET, Casahl Technology, Hewlett-Packard, EntreVision, Sun and Motorola.
Lotus can be reached at 617-577-8500 or at www.lotus.com/.
Things to buzz about besides Papows
Papows out at Lotus; IBM vet to take control
Network World, 01/10/00.
Papows out as Lotus CEO
Network World Fusion, 01/06/2000.
Lotus' Papows named in sex-bias complaint
IDG News Service, 05/12/99.