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Lotus position: IBM kills the name, but software and founders live on

Julie Sartain | Feb. 5, 2013
Thirty-one years ago, Massachusetts-based software developers Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs created a program — an electronic spreadsheet — that would change the world. A year later, on Jan. 26, 1983, Lotus Development Corp. released Lotus 1-2-3 for the IBM PC and grossed $53 million in sales. The following year, sales tripled to more than $150 million.

"The post-PC world of today makes the 'desktop' attributes of the original Lotus brand far less relevant to today's offerings and, in that respect, it may have been a hindrance to IBM. Furthermore, IBM has itself evolved and expanded over the years from being a 'tools and technologies' company to being a 'solutions' company. And, over that period-driven, in large part, by the internet-social technologies have been woven into most every solution that they build," says Ozzie.

Today, Ozzie is the founder and CEO of an organization that concentrates on a new class of mobile-centric software and services. "Currently, I am focused on a new startup called Talko that's working on a new spin of my original passion using technology to facilitate human interaction but in a form that's designed for today's post-PC world of mobile devices and the web," says Ozzie.

He was at Microsoft from 2005 to 2010. He became the chief software architect in June 2006 responsible for the company's overall technical strategy and product architecture when Bill Gates retired to work at his foundation.

From 1997 to 2005, Ozzie founded Groove Networks "to create personally-empowering, secure, mobile, ad hoc, decentralized collaboration software for both individuals and enterprises." His co-founders were Ken Moore, Jack Ozzie, and Eric Patey. Microsoft purchased Groove Networks in April of 2005.

On IBM's decision to kill the Lotus name, Ozzie explains that to keep customers from being confused, IBM really only had two choices: to grow the use of Lotus as a "social ingredient brand" in all its relevant solution offerings, regardless of its technical heritage or to eliminate it and say "IBM itself means social."

"Either one of those conclusions would make sense, so the determination to retire the Lotus brand was likely a good one. It had a good run. I'm not surprised and it was a wise business decision," says Ozzie.

Tim Halvorsen

Iris Associates co-founder Tim Halvorsen recalls, "We were all friends from our college days, having all worked on the development team of a computer system at the University of Illinois called PLATO, a computer-based learning system. The PLATO system had a number of features that allowed people to interact; e.g., electronic mail, real-time chatting, and group discussions."

According to Halvorsen, the trio decided to use their experience to create ways for the new personal computers to easily communicate, which would then allow the users to easily and effectively communicate and collaborate with each other.

"We started out immediately designing and writing the first version of Lotus Notes to provide these features," says Halvorsen. "Ray and I worked on the low-level coding framework, as well as developing the Notes database (aka "NSF") implementation and the word processing component (the part that I am using right now to write this email). I also acted as the overall development Project Leader coordinating the work lists and tracking development schedules, plus coordinated the work of creating intermediate beta versions of the code for testing."

 

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