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IBM sells off Notes

December 9, 2018

This past week brought news that IBM is selling off Notes. I can’t decide if I’m surprised that IBM finally sold it off or that it took them so long to do so.

When I worked for IBM Research, Notes was arguably the primary focus of HCI research at IBM, since it was essentially the collaboration software at IBM. Of course, even while I was still there (I left in 2012), HCI and collaboration research were definitely in decline (it didn’t help that most of the HCI researchers I knew at IBM left for other companies in the 2010-2014 timeframe). IBM made a half-hearted attempt to create enterprise-focused social software (Connections, which looks like it may continue to exist), but data management and analysis were clearly the company’s primary focus. 

While IBM kept Notes going for a long time, it was a relic from another time. IBMers used to talk about how Notes pre-dated modern email when explaining its idiosyncrasies, as though that somehow justified continuing to stick with it (as opposed to demonstrating that first doesn’t  necessarily mean better). I can still remembering people in meetings claiming they hadn’t received a message yet, and being reminded by other participants to replicate their database (as opposed to check for new mail).

Still, it’s hard not to feel just a little nostalgic. Hopefully those folks I know who are still with IBM find interesting places with interesting work to land.

From → Software

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