Ben Langhinrichs

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June, 2009
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Mon 15 Jun 2009, 05:53 PM
It is a very strange thing to step back and look at the evolution of Outlook and Notes in the last major versions, especially with regards to email rendering.  In some ways, each has been racing to get where the other one was.  Microsoft Outlook 2003 used an IE rendering component to display emails as they were read.  This meant that HTML emails tended to render quite well.  IBM Lotus Notes 7 did not use a rendering component, but instead converted email to Notes rich text, and thus did not render well.  

But that's not the whole story.  

Microsoft customers complained and griped about Outlook 2003, because when they replied or forwarded an email, it was converted to MS Word format, and thus lost a lot of fidelity.  What they saw when reading was not what they saw when forwarding.  Customers shouted and screamed, and Microsoft felt compelled to respond.

Meanwhile, IBM customers complained and griped about Lotus Notes 7, because when read an HTML email, it looked horrible.  On the other hand, when they replied or forwarded an email, it looked the same (as it was sent, not as it was received), because the loss of fidelity had already happened when they read the email.  What they saw when reading was the same as what they saw when forwarding, and neither was great.  Customers shouted and screamed, and IBM felt compelled to respond.

Fast forward to Outlook 2007 and Lotus Notes 8/8.5.  Now, Notes uses an IE component to display emails, and they render quite well.  Outlook reads directly into Word format, and thus renders much less well, but at least the emails look the same when forwarded or replied to, even if it is the same lousy.

So, the two elephants have essentially switched places.  The interesting thing is the response.  Notes 8/8.5 is fairly widely accepted, with one of the fastest adoption rates of any recent Notes version.  Outlook 2007 is not well accepted, with the slowest adoption rate any Outlook update has ever had.  While neither approach is perfect, I think the market is saying that the IBM elephant is lumbering in a better direction.  (Of course, if there just happened to be a product that worked with Notes that made the forwarding and replying render properly too...)

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