Last week at the London leg of Lotusphere Comes to You, a potted version of the January Floridian Lotus Love Fest, I re-visited LotusLive, IBM’s SaaS offering. While the astute Nick Shelness neatly summarizes the set of services and though there are teething problems, and aside from my belief it is too pricey, I believe IBM is paying heed to how a third party ecosystem can help promote and support cloud computing. There have been doubts, but unlike Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Microsoft’s set of cloud services, at least with IBM’s, partners are able to white label and bill.
It is a matter of power. IBM cannot reach SMB without indirect channel support, unless it does much more to promote a direct route to the SMB market. Post the Lotus acquisition, the company did not have strong brand equity in SMB. Microsoft, though it had used indirect channels exclusively to transact, always had a strong brand relationship with SMB, enabling it to transition easily to a direct route to market via the cloud. That isn’t to say that partners can’t play in BPOS, in fact Microsoft is encouraging it, but a partner’s added value is diminished.