Lotus exec eyes revamped interface, linux

Lotus exec eyes revamped interface, linux

IDG: On the impressions he got from Lotus business partners at Lotusphere:

Reeves: The overall feeling I'm getting from a business-partner perspective on the show floor is it seems to be a lot busier, and people are a lot more serious. There are people really doing business there, even more than usual. Lots of traffic and lots of real serious activity.

The second feeling I'm getting, not so much from business partners, is that this is the first time we've really comprehensively talked about the product line in the general session. The sense was that we're getting away from being a one-product company again, which is good. The nice thing about it was that not too much of the general session stuff was really built on risky stuff. I mean, not all of it is quite ready for prime time, but it was all real code. So it's stuff that's either in market or close to it. So it's a real "now" thing, as opposed to talking about R5 a few months ahead (like we did last year).

On the need to revamp the Notes user interface:

The question I get all the time, and it's never-ending, is, "Oh my God, I saw Raven running in a browser, you opened up the server to Outlook and these WAP phones - does this mean the Notes client is dead?"

The point is, if you said that the measure of life in a product is the proportion of its share of our eyeballs, you'd have to say it's going to decline. But the fact of the matter is, the overall number of eyeballs is going up like crazy, and the Notes client is really gaining pretty steady ground. I think it's time for a makeover - there are some things we have to look at hard. I'd like to really take some steps to improve the user interface. The Notes client is one of those things that people say they love it and they hate it. They love it for everything it does, but its idiosyncrasies really irritate them. Because it grew up in a period when multi-platform was important, and conformance to a pure Windows style of navigation wasn't. And that's less true today. So it's kind of a product that looks a little in its own world.

There are really neat things that it does, but there are just some things that are really irritating.

On what he hears about the CEO change:

The biggest question is, why did they pick a 23-year IBMer? I know (incoming CEO) Al (Zollar) from a while ago, and he's a really good guy. I think the real thing that Al will bring to the table - and this isn't a party-line thing, I actually believe this - is you definitely want to have a guy who can put a fence around Lotus, and protect some things about Lotus that are really just fabulous. There's a culture and a joy in doing work and a relative lack of bureaucracy, although no organisation of a few thousand people has (no bureaucracy).

But the big thing is, it's really nice to have a guy who knows where the handles are at IBM, and when to turn them. He'll know when to say no, because first of all, he's been given permission very clearly by (IBM senior vice president and Software Group Executive) John (Thompson), and he's had experience at Tivoli (as vice president of development) as well. He can call and make something happen, and will have the inclination to do it, much more easily as an IBMer.

IBM has these vast resources. There are places we should be tapping in where Al will be a real aid in that.

On Lotus' Linux strategy:

There is a great deal of interest in the Linux server, very little on the client. If you look at it, the real serious usage of Linux, where people are actually doing something with it, is on the server. But the hype and the buzz, and a lot of the techie noise that's supporting Linux, is on the client - people saying it's going to unseat Windows and so on. I don't see the latter happening.

So I did expect to get a lot of Linux (fanatics) going, "Why aren't you building a client?" In fact, we've heard very little, if any, of that; and a great deal of enthusiasm for the Linux server.

I'm not sure Linux is ready for prime time yet. I'm no expert, but the reports I hear are that the OS has a way to go to be really robust and industry-strength. But it's a relatively inexpensive port for us, and we're totally happy to ride that wagon. And it looks as though IBM is going to do a hell of a lot more with Linux. So that will be just fine with us. Our primary platforms right now, as far as putting the pedal to the metal, are NT, AIX, Solaris; and we'd be happy to add Linux to the lineup.

On whether the adoption rate of R5 has been slower than expected:

I'm not sure that I would have made an accurate prediction, but probably yes - everybody would like to see it go faster. But it seems to be on a major uptick now. In talking to the big, heavyweight deployments, they appear to think that 5.03 will be what they go on - there are a couple odds and ends in 5.03 that people are looking for, so I'm expecting to see a huge uptick this year.

That's actually good news, because people are saying, "I don't want a follow-on release anytime soon. I want to make sure it's Windows 2000-tolerant."

There was definitely a Y2K slowdown. And in the big (installations) you've got to touch 10,000 desktops. The servers are going in pretty fast, it's desktops that are not getting touched, and that's simply an arms-and-legs problem.

We shipped it in March (1999) - had we shipped at the beginning of the year, I'm not sure that it would have made a hell of a lot of difference. I think the year was one of caution.

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