Here's a hint Joe - SMB owners generally don't give a proverbial about what's under the hood - they just want to give their users the application services they need to get the job done. Sometimes those applications are from Microsoft and sometimes they are from IBM and sometimes they are from other vendors. The Lotus Foundations value proposition doesn't need the hardware component (or even Lotus Domino) to be an attractive investment for a SMB.
I don't understand why you are suggesting the IBM approach is different to Microsoft because IBM has announced an appliance (software plus hardware) while Microsoft is releasing a software package. Remember that Lotus Foundations Server software was originally released, and is still available, as a software package to install on third party hardware. The appliance offering is an option for those SMB who prefer that integrated model, but you don't need to take it if you don't want it. So at this point IBM is just offering a wider range of solution configurations than Microsoft. I guess Microsoft could eventually start bundling SBS on re-engineered HP hardware that provides the O/S on flash memory and includes intelligent Backup and Restore, but right now I'd say the Boys from Seattle are a looooooooooooooooong way behind on that kind of technology.
Perhaps you missed some key point on a few other issues:
- Office alternative Symphony is bundled along with Lotus Notes. - Yes, but Symphony is also available as a free download. You don't need to buy Foundations in order to install Symphony.
- IBM cut a virtualization deal with VMware—for businesses needing to run Windows applications. - Look a little deeper Joe. VMWare on Foundations allows a SMB to run Windows servers as well as applications. Are you fed up with your Server 2003 BSOD taking out your entire network and internet access? Does reinstalling or restoring Windows Server take your whole system off line for the whole day? Then run your Windows Server session inside a VMWare session on Lotus Foundations server and the only thing that a Windows Server malfunction can kill is itself. Lotus Foundations Server will keep right on running and apart from the people who need a Windows server application (accounting?) your users won't notice that it's gone.
- The business model is more subscription-like, which should appeal to channel partners and customers, particularly in these times of economic uncertainty. - Where the heck did this one come from? Sure you pay annual maintenance on the Foundations software and antispam/antivirus modules but that's the same with any server software. IBM has recently announced hosted Notes/Domino but that has nothing to do with Foundations. A SMB can opt for a hosted Foundations and Notes solution but they can do that with any server software if they can find a Business Partner who wants to sell them that service.
- Domain hosting is one of the service hybrids IBM offers with its Foundations appliance. - That depends how you define Domain Hosting. If you have an existing Domain name (say, www. acme.com) but you don't have a static IP address to nail the Domain Name to, then you can use the Lotus Foundations DynamicDNS service to ensure that your server can always be reached at www.acme.com. First, you instruct your ISP to point your Domain Name record to the Lotus DynamicDNS servers (which have a static IP address). Then when you reboot your Foundations server it takes note of the new IP address that it has been allocated and sends that information along with its Domain Name information to the Lotus DynamicDNS servers. All enquiries for www.acme.com will first go to the Lotus servers and are then automatically redirected to your own server. I don't consider that to be Domain Hosting since all Lotus is providing is a Domain Name redirection service.
You compared the pricing of Microsoft's Small Business Server 2008 "standard" edition as $1,089 for five users and the the "premium" version as $1,899 against the cost of a Lotus Foundations applicance as $2,499. That's hardly comparing apples with apples. If you are looking at a software-only sale then the cost of the appliance is irrelevant and Lotus Foundations Server software is cheaper at $849 for five users. If you want to include the the cost of the Lotus appliance hardware then we need to add in the cost of the hardware to run the Microsoft solution and I think 10gb of ram on a 64 bit architecture was the starting point for SBS2008 (times two if you want the Premium edition).
You've done some excellent reviews in the past Joe but you let yourself down with this one. However apart from the creativity in comparing prices, I put most of your mistakes down to your unfamiliarity with Lotus Foundations Server. I'll be watching to see what you have to say with your next product comparison after the Microsoft's SBS 2008 launch.