Sunday, 25 November 2012

End of an era - goodbye Lotus

It was announced this week that IBM is dropping the Lotus brand from its much-loved Notes and Domino workgroup products. That’s the end of an era for a brand that first saw the light of day 30 years ago (in 1982). From Version 9.0 onwards, we’ll be calling it IBM Notes.

Let’s turn back time to 1982. We’ll gloss over the clothes, the music, and the politics, and remind ourselves about that king of spreadsheets – Lotus 1-2-3. Mitch Kapor founded Lotus Development Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA in that year. Lotus 1-2-3 was so popular that many people bought PCs simply to use it!

Over the years, a number of other products came from Lotus – with names such as Approach, cc:Mail, Hal, Improv, Jazz, Manuscript, Magellan, Organizer, and Symphony. You can just feel the memories as you say the names – although the truth is that they weren’t all wildly successful. But with the triumph of Microsoft Office in the desktop environment, Lotus could still hold its head high. It had the best groupware product around – Notes.

In the 1990s, every presentation seemed to be how client/server was the only computing model worth considering, and Notes’ combination of messaging and database fitted the bill perfectly. And as soon as PCs could produce enough power for it to work, Notes took off.

And then in 1995, in the spirit of the old Remington catchphrase, IBM liked the product so much, they bought the company! And they paid a whopping $3.5 billion for it. IBM added Lotus Domino (the server-side version of Notes), and the product became popular for collaborative working.

Lotus ran some major jamborees, labelled Lotusphere, where the faithful could get the latest news on products and developments, and talk to like-minded users. At Xephon, where I was working in the 1990s, we published Notes Update and then Notes/Domino Update, with me as the editor.

IBM also acquired Ray Ozzie, who’s company Iris Associates, developed Notes for Lotus. But soon Ozzie was on the move and formed Groove Networks, which was taken over by Microsoft. In 2006 he became Chief Architect at Microsoft, but left at the end of 2010. His new company is called Cocomo.

So, the good news is that Notes and Domino go on. The sad news is that the Lotus brand name finally disappears. 

Meanwhile, don’t forget to complete the mainframe users survey at And vendors - make sure your free entry in the Arcati Mainframe Yearbook is up-to-date by going to

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