Bill Gates’s Successor

There’s an interesting article in The Economist suggesting that Bill Gates is picking Ray Ozzie as his successor because Steve Jobs isn’t available. Entertaining suggestion, but since Ray Ozzie’s chief claim to fame is Lotus Notes, perhaps it should be taken with a grain of salt.

If you are unfamiliar with Lotus Notes let me summarize: it’s an email and collaboration program that, conceptually, is similar to a wiki but better (because you can grab those parts of the wiki that interest you and put them on your local machine, and then merge your changes back in later) but actually is much, much worse.

Make no mistake, conceptually, Lotus Notes was a brilliant product. Its chief advantage over any random wiki-software today is, essentially, defunct, since the cost of deploying Lotus Notes (estimated by Gartner in the mid-90s at $7000/seat/year) dwarfs the cost of, say, giving your employees wireless network access 24/7. Heck, it would probably cover giving them a satellite phone to access the internet. Having had such a strong base to build on and such a head start over the web, you’d think Notes might have made up for its lack of compelling new functionality with, say, ease of use or excellent platform support. But no … you can’t even get the latest Notes for Mac OS X.

Anyone who has used or administered Lotus Notes can tell you that not only is it actively user-hostile, but it doesn’t get better. They keep releasing new versions that just suck. It’s a piece of software that no-one who wasn’t forced to use it by their boss would avoid like the plague.

If this product accurately reflects the vision of the person who is Bill Gates’s chosen successor, Microsoft is headed for oblivion.