During my travels in Australia last week, I had the opportunity to meet an existing Lotus customer where there is pressure to consider switching to Microsoft Outlook.  Hey, it happens.

In the course of this meeting, one of my colleagues (I won't name by name, as that would likely identify which customer we met) did an integrated demonstration of Notes 8 plus Quickr, Sametime, and Connections.

It's not that his demonstration was particularly unique or advanced (though I did learn a few things, at least one of which I need to blog).  What he did is he talked to the customer in their terms -- related it to their work, their organization, and their existing use of Lotus technologies.

I walked out of that meeting and turned to my colleagues, making the simple statement -- "How can anyone have watched that demo and think, 'gee, we really need to switch to Outlook'?"  I tried to play devil's advocate and see what the scenario might be, and I found it hard to come up with much.  I think the demonstration showed that IBM has been building tight integration within the Notes environment (presence awareness and one-click chat access everywhere, for example) and across the Lotus portfolio.  The demonstration clearly showed the usability improvments in Notes 8, simple things like the improvements in the calendar and contact views and more advanced things like the conversations view.  It showed the additional value of Notes 8 versus prior versions, through the sidebar notion, the integration of Symphony, and composite applications.  We even talked about Traveler, the DWA lite mode, and other updates coming in 8.0.1 to fill in some of the remaining comparative/competitive gaps.

I don't want to be na├»ve, so I am examining remaining reasons.  I've heard that ISV/plug-in support might be one reason that someone would still want Outlook as their desktop tool.  I've heard that some individual features are preferred in the Outlook implementation versus the Notes implementation (but, I've now heard more and more that Outlook users looking at Notes 8 are expressing preference for the way we've done it).

Perhaps this is why, in the last couple of weeks, I've seen Microsoft trying to recruit partners to a session on their competitive displacement effort with the panicked notion that if a customer upgrades to Notes 8, Microsoft could lose the "entire platform".  It's great to be getting signs from customers, partners, and the market overall that the product transition has turned things from defense to offense.  There's more to do (I know, I know, I can hear your comments about marketing) but things are definitely on an exciting trajectory.

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