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Lotus Notes could kill MSAccess

Originally written 20030415

MSAccess only filled the void after Borland killed DBase. Borland saw DBase as the competitor to Borland's own Paradox application, which was more a glorified spreadsheet than a database . When Borland bought Ashton-Tate, they could have capitalized on combining the universal DBase file format with the easy-to-use-by-business-managers features from Paradox. Instead they announced that they were killing DBase. Classic case of "Not Invented Here". Paradox did not have enough market share to survive, and so they lost the market completely.

Meanwhile FoxPro had moved the DBase format to Unix, and Clipper and a few others allowed compiled applications on MSDOS. MSAccess was originally garbage, but MS bought FoxPro and started importing the technology into Access, while making certain that FoxPro received no development funds. MS is the only company in the world with a massive case of "Not Invented There", but for once they decided to push their own brand at the expense of better technology THAT THEY OWNED. (Microsoft may often remove better technology from the world, but usually because it may compete with a Microsoft product. This is the only case I know where they killed something they owned because it would compete with the version they created in-house.)

Eventually MSAccess became popular due to its inclusion in MSOffice, but nobody who has worked on any other database system will ever choose it for anything. (I know saying "never" is bad form, and I tend to underestimate the stupidity in the world, but there are not any database platforms worse than MSAccess.)

So two cases of NIH lead MS to have an incredibly bad product dominating its market.

IBM has the answer:

Lotus Notes is a database program using a data stucture that can be understood by any business manager, and has an interface so those managers can build applications easily. Lotus Notes was originally sold for business communication, so IBM continues to sell it as part of their business communications software. Very slight changes to the client could make it both the best email client for home use, as well as the best database program for 'small' (up to 50,000 records) database applications. Allow the client to generate a key, and we solve the problems of security and spam.

A single client use version of Lotus Notes could easily defeat both MSOutlook and MSAccess. Follow the Netscape marketing model and give it away for free for non-commercial use. More business people would be comfortable with it, and that creates more corporate sales. The almost tied battle with MSExchange ends with Lotus Notes dominating the market for corporate email and applications. Enterprise Java (Websphere) and many other technologies are already integrated with Lotus Notes. .NET is history. Desktop Linux will kill Windows. Push an open word processing file format, such as extending HTML to have better control over printing, adding tags to put page headers/footers into the HEAD section. Microsoft will die quickly.

I doubt IBM will do it. Not because of their great friendship with Microsoft, but because IBM sees software as an excuse to sell hardware. Since IBM still thinks of itself as a hardware company, I can see why they believe it. But the world would be a much better place if IBM marketed Lotus Notes well.

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Paul Ercolino