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IBM ran their annual Lotusphere conference last week, drawing thousands of customers and developers from around the world. As a first time attendee, I was absolutely blown away by the scale and the truly top notch manner in which the event was run. The main theme was introduced by Alistair Rennie, General Manager for Lotus Software and Collaboration Solutions as “Get Social. Do Business,” so IBM has clearly placed a stake in the ground to capitalize on their advantage in social networking.
As always, I was pursuing the mobility angle, and mobility was prominently featured in several of the sessions. Kevin Cavanaugh, Vice President, Messaging & Collaboration Software, led the session on the Lotus Mobility Strategy with Bharti Patel, Director for Lotus Mobile. While they both emphasized the importance of supporting all of the major mobile operating systems (RIM, Android, iPhone, and Nokia) two of those companies were front and center.
Both RIM and Nokia had booths in the exhibit area though RIM was clearly drawing the bigger crowd. The reason for that was that they had two of their Playbook tablets on display, and everyone wanted a look. Jim Basillie, RIM’s co-CEO was also in attendance, sharing the stage with Alistair Rennie for the keynote and the analysts’ session and he had a Playbook of his own.
At first look, the Playbook is pretty sweet, and with a 7-inch screen it’s a one-handed device compared to the iPAD’s two-hand requirement; Avaya also had one of their Desktop Video Devices on display but that’s two-hands and a pull-cart. The Playbook is still a work in progress as evidenced by the fact that when you turned it vertical, the image didn’t shift (they’re working on that).
One feature they were showing was “hot corners” where the four corners of the bezel outside of the screen area activate features when touched; they only had one of the corners activated. The units were there to demo rather than test as the RIM folks were not allowed to let any of us hold them.
RIM has been an IBM ally for many years, but the question that occurred to many attendees was: “What’s Nokia doing here?” As the accompanying table indicates, Nokia remains the worldwide leader in smartphone sales, and Lotus has a worldwide footprint. Without a doubt, they have become an irrelevant factor in the US smartphone market, but worldwide sales of smartphones using their Symbian operating system are better than twice iPhone sales. RIM also remains ahead of Apple but they are trending lower as the iPhone’s share grows.
2010 Worldwide Smartphone Sales by Operating System (Units in thousands)Source: Gartner
2010 Unit Sales000s
2010 Market Share
2009 Unit Sales 000s
2009 Market Share
At Lotusphere Nokia was showing off their new E7 touchscreen smartphone with slide-out keyboard and mini-HDMI video output that allows you to play your cell phone videos on a big screen TV. The nature of the IBM relationship got cloudier a week later when Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer joined Nokia CEO (and Microsoft alumnus) Stephen Elop in announcing that Nokia would be using Microsoft’s new Phone 7 operating system on some of its future models. Elop did not indicate when their first Phone 7 would be introduced, and confirmed that they would not be abandoning Symbian outright.
While getting the nod from the world’s largest handset maker is indeed a coup for Microsoft, the impact on Microsoft’s Lync unified communications product is not as clear. When Phone 7 was introduced last year I asked the Microsoft spokesman if they planned to have a Lync client for it and he failed to recognize “Lync” was actually a Microsoft product. So while Lync is big news for us, it clearly isn’t a major factor in Microsoft’s consumer business.
Elop is looking to get Nokia back on the fast track again, following an internal memo secured by Engadget and reported in Business Week where he observed that his company “poured gasoline on our own burning platform” by being unprepared for the changes in the smartphones market. For the moment, the IBM relationship appears to be about mobilizing Notes and Sametime, while the Microsoft relationship is about consumer smartphones. That makes the Microsoft relationship a lot more important given the consumer focus of the smartphone market. Nokia stands to sell a lot more handsets (and slow the growth of rivals iPhone and Android) by latching on to a hot consumer trend than they ever would selling a mobile UC offering.
While well received by the analyst community, Phone 7 has a long way to go to establish itself as a realistic alternative to iPhone and Android, though I do get a kick out of their ads. The Nokia/Microsoft combination might still fail in the US market, but it’s a big world out there, and the US share of the international smartphone market is only 21%.
So mobility is still a big story in the UC market, but UC seems to be a footnote in the mobility space.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?