Steve O’Grady pointed out that the importance of Outlook as the center of most info-workers day-life gives Outlook a strong position in the “messaging” market. (“Messaging” always seemed liked a silly term. “Email” would be more clear and concise. But, who am I to pull the abstractionist buzz-word crafters down from the ceiling?)
Or, put another way: there’s little chance that Workplace/Notes (I’m not too clear on the distinction between the two at this level of discussion) is going to beat Outlook for email eyeballs and dollars. Everyone uses the Outlook.
Closed Protocols Are a Dead-End
One of the great suggestions he makes is that Workplace/Notes should be a normal email client: one that can pull email from POP and IMAP, instead of requiring the Workplace back-end as an email server. Furthermore, this POP/IMAP enabled client could be given away for (near) free as a standalone email client.
And thus, you’d have a go at the viral spread of a new email client: given that (a.) it’s s better than (in usability, price, maintenance, or all 3) Outlook, and, (b.) as I’ve mentioned before, works well with Exchange/Outlook, you’d get, (c.) despite the slow turn-over of corporate IT, the actual end-users may decide that it’s time to dump Microsoft for IBM by voting with their email clients.
Getting the Vanguard
Now, as Steve points out, email clients aren’t quite sexy enough to rely on your bread-and-butter white-collar to get all excited about switching: Outlook is just fine for them, they’re not going to get all into the feature differentiation of clients like folks will over IM (though, that’s another segment of the “messaging” market that’s easily disrupted if you can figure out the best whiz for your bang; so far, no whiz’ers).
With all that lay-up, here’s the punch-line: my idea for getting that early majority is to make Workplace/Notes into an Eclipse “plugin” that the legions of Eclipse Java developers can install and start using:
- Many, many, many Java developers use Eclipse: Forrester put the number around 75% of all Java developers. So, Eclipse has a huge install base.
- Most Java developers (the legions of coders left over after the Ruby Exodus) work in shops that use Exchange/Outlook.
- Java coders don’t have much brand-loyalty to Microsoft. They have even less care about Outlook. That is, they’re easy targets for switching.
- Given all this, if there was an Eclipse plugin for reading Email that worked just as well as Outlook for email and calendaring, IBM would seem to have a pretty good contender for an Outlook killer. Us programmers love “living in” our IDE’s, so we’re already down with the idea of jamming more functionality and screen time into our tools.
That is, while there’s certainly power in using the Eclipse platform to build an email client, I think there’s a better chance for rapid success by putting an email client into Eclipse.
Of course, once you win over the Java folks, you have to move through the rest of the curve…see vital, penultimate step in the list below.
Putting More Blood Into the Stone
And once Outlook is taken over, it’s a case of kill the head and the body will die: the Exchange servers that is. Just imagine how many millions there are in Exchange and Outlook licenses. If IBM got just 5-10% of that, they’d get themselves some good revenue; compare Firefox’s rapid, but still small share of the browser market and how much everyone freaks out (in a good way) about that small amount vs. IE.
Even better with all that room to grow, they’d have some easy growth points on their hands to pump into their quarterly numbers. That is, once you’ve saturated the market for a given product, it’s hard to grow it, and if you can’t grow it, you can’t feed your shareholder’s insatiable hunger for growth, and that lot starts looking for something different, dumping the growth-stymied party at the curb. It’s the more blood from the stone problem.
Of course, at a place as big as IBM, it may just be a blip, but it’d be a high-profile blip.
So, here’s the plan:
- Make Workplace/Notes work with POP/IMAP…if it doesn’t already.
- Make Workplace/Notes work perfectly (90-95% so) with Exchange, esp. with calendaring, i.e., scheduling and accepting invites to meetings…if it doesn’t already.
- Create a Eclipse plugin that wraps up all of the above.
- Give the plugin to the Eclipse Java Community.
I, for one, would welcome my new messaging overlord.
Update: for some reason, this post gets a shit-load of SPAM comments. So, I’ve closed down comments. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about it.