You are a leader, if people follow your lead

by Volker Weber

I am lucky. I don't depend on IBM for mobile support.

In 2008, Apple announced iPhone 2.0; today we would call it iOS 2. iPhone suddenly came with enterprise support. Which Apple translates to Microsoft Exchange. It was quickly dismissed:

we don't really know yet how good the iPhone's support for Exchange is, anyway. It was pointed out to me that the iPhone's support for other e-mail systems, such as Yahoo mail, only checks and syncs mail on a fifteen-minute interval. Other systems do e-mail only, no calendar or contacts. We don't yet know what the Exchange support actually is in the real world.

Well, it did not take long to find out that it's pretty good. Instant. Email, calender, contacts. IBM thought for a while that Notes mail access in a browser would be good enough. Finally, after much handwringing, they bit the bullet and added Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support for the iPhone to Lotus Traveler. It shipped 16 months after Apple announced iPhone 2. People love it. It was the smart thing to do.

For anything but the iPhone/iPad/iPod, IBM supports selected devices with their own client and protocol. Windows Mobile and Symbian for instance.

Six months ago, my first Symbian^3 device arrived. Symbian is supported by Traveler, right? Wrong. Traveler only supports older versions of Symbian. Half a year after it became available to the public, Symbian^3 is still not supported by Traveler. Not on any of the devices. Three months ago it was finally available in the Ovi store. Not on Symbian^3.

For Android, IBM wrote their own client stack. Traveler protocol support, clients for mail, calendar and contacts. That's good and bad. Good for admins, because they tackle fragmentation. Bad for users, because they can't use the excellent clients in HTC Sense for instance. As with Symbian, you depend on IBM to support your particular device.

I believe this approach does not scale.

How does mobile support look outside of the IBM world? The lingua franca is EAS. Every server speaks EAS. Exchange does, all the Exchange clones do. Even Google Apps does. Not a big surprise: every mobile device does. A smartphone that does not talk to Exchange is considered a defect. Does any smartphone vendor care about Traveler? Not really. Unless IBM writes a client, as they do for Symbian.

It's almost three years later, and nothing really has changed. IBM discusses if there really is a need to support Windows Phone 7. Of course not, because it's "not an enterprise device". Should Microsoft suddenly think, that it is, and they will, good luck. Six months was not long enough to add Symbian^3 to Symbian support. How long would it take to add Windows Phone 7?

We called the iPhone "JesusPhone". Because it divided time in "before the iPhone", and "after the iPhone". It has accelerated the consumerization of IT. People have better stuff at home than at work.

If you host your mail on Microsoft Exchange or Google Apps, you can be pretty sure that you are covered. Somebody brings in a device and asks you to put mail on it, you can do it. You will be able to slap a password policy on the device. You will be able to locate it if lost. You will be able to lock it, make it ring if muted. You will be able to wipe it. With a "not an enterprise device" like Windows Phone 7, if you want.

What can IBM do? Obvious, isn't it? Take that iPhone EAS support and extend it to all devices. All devices. IBM says, EAS is "too narrow". I say iPhone only is too narrow.

Comments

Since Traveler already supports the EAS protocoll, supporting other phones might even just require some configuration, and not much programming at all. Supporting other phones with EAS is not a money issue at all, its politics only.

IBM, if you have the money built your own client for Windows, Android and Symbian 3 client and support EAS for those devices. And run please some statistics to find out the acceptance of the IBM client vs. the native client.

Anyone from IBM willing to bet?

Felix Binsack, 2011-04-04

It's not politics. It's testing. IBM is constrained by QA. That's why they put a lot of stuff on OpenNTF.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-04

For me the built-in Activesync client on HTC devices is working with Traveler on Domino. It worked on the Hero and now also on the Desire S. And I am lucky I can use the excellent clients delivered with HTC Sense.

Detlev Schümann, 2011-04-04

Waiting for IBM to add support for features that the rest of the world just expects is like asking your kids to clean their room. You have to yell and scream till your blue in the face, then it's get's done half way and half-heartedly, and then when it's done, they tell you what a monumental task it was.

I have to put up with my kids. IBM?

Microsoft, Google, VMware/Zimbra, and whoever else out there understands that smartphones are becoming more and more of a consumer decision, not an enterprise one, and consumers are not going to want to wait to get support, they'll want to move on.

Bill Dorge, 2011-04-04

Detlev, it's quite possible that any device variant of EAS might work with Traveler. Or that it might work with most use cases. Then suddenly you hit something that was not implemented, like a recurring appointment on your calendar that gets rescheduled. Boom.

The basics are down. Now IBM needs to get it from supporting one device to supporting more.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-04


You'd think I talked enough on Mr. Brill's blog, wouldn't you?

FWIW, Traveler AS does not work on Droid X (verizon). Only the actual Traveler client, and it has the various weird things you'd expect from a v1.0 package.

Craig Wiseman, 2011-04-04

You'd think I talked enough on Mr. Brill's blog, wouldn't you?

Yes. Not enough for IBM though. I think Andy Donaldson gets it:

when we say we can't offer support for those devices, it turns into one of those conversations that Lotus can't keep up with the times, Lotus sucks, etc etc.

IBM was asleep at the wheel when EAS became more relevant than BlackBerry. And with writing their own clients they will never keep up with the times.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-04

When Brill posted that the other day, my first thought was, if we're using standard protocols, why would IBM need to decide which devices they support?

That used to be what IBM preached.

Maybe they mean support on an extra level, beyond what standards allow...

Craig Boudreaux, 2011-04-04

Preaching standards and making them usable are two things. IBM would claim, they use the "open standard" SyncML in Traveler, but there is no open protocol specification and no reference implementation.

Microsoft has published Exchange ActiveSync and that is what people are now familiar with.

Volker Weber, 2011-04-04

It was sometime back in 2008, when I was responsible for a Notes installation of some 10'000 users, that I asked my IBM rep: "What do I tell my CEO when he gets himself an iPhone and asks me to put e-mail on it?"

The IBM rep was completely lost. His only answer was that the iPhone is not a business phone, and that this must never be allowed.

I remember that day as the day I realized that Lotus Notes is a dead horse, despite it's many good intentions and features. IBM is OS/2-ing the Notes platform.

Matthias Leisi, 2011-04-04

@Matthias

If you're not playing to win, you're playing to lose. IBM is not playing to win.

To quote The Eagles,
"You don't care about winning but you don't want to lose ..."

Craig Wiseman, 2011-04-04

"After the thrill is gone" ;-)

Volker Weber, 2011-04-04

@Matthias : I remember when I was working for Lotus and told (by IBM) I was selling "middleware" because IBM was delivering professional software as opposed to consumer software. In a wold where IT is experiencing "consumerization", Lotus was the utilmate victim (in my point of view) of IBM's OS/2 consumer trauma. (but again, it's my opinion).... IBM is against consumer software and although IBM is a great software company (in transactional software), it misses compelling offer that touches applications for endusers. Sad for me to say it because I worked for 10 years @Lotus but true...

Francois Cornely, 2011-04-04

@Matthias Leisi, I think the current analogy should be that IBM is more like Nokia. Once a market leader, now can not or don't want to keep up with the market.

I still can not believe then the new Nokia CEO said that with thousand of engineers, Nokia could not be in time with all the changes needed. Are you kidding me? They are Nokia, they have thousands of really good engineers!

Why can we have an iNotes like BD for the teamroom? The mail BD is gorgeous in the web. Why can a N: drive point to a local BD, that way you will have a real Quickr. Why can every replication conflict be a version of the document in the teamroom?

An the questions go on and on... It seems that they really don't care. And I don't know who is to blame, maybe EdBrill? Another manager? Don't know ...

Oliver Schulze, 2011-04-04

@Oliver Maybe those who use Notes and Domino should only blame themselves!?
Some people at IBM do listen and in some way I believe that IBM will improve EAS in the future. And then there will be other things people are going to ask IBM to fix or improve. In many cases IBM seem to only respond to other market players. While this may not be a bad strategy because you can concentrate on things that already work for the competition as a customer you will often have to wait. And of course with this strategy you cannot be a leader (but probably still make a lot of money).

Henning Heinz, 2011-04-05

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I explain difficult concepts in simple ways. For free, and for money. Clue procurement and bullshit detection.

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