Lotus Software

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lotus Software
Company typeSubsidiary
IndustryComputer software
Founded1982; 42 years ago (1982) (as Lotus Development Corporation)
HeadquartersCambridge, Massachusetts, U.S.
ProductsLotus 1-2-3
Lotus Agenda
Lotus Connections
Lotus Domino
Lotus Domino Web Access
Lotus Expeditor
Lotus Forms
Lotus Freelance Graphics
Lotus Magellan
Lotus Manuscript
Lotus Notes
Lotus Notes Traveler
Lotus Quickr
Lotus Sametime
Lotus SmartSuite
Lotus Symphony
Lotus Foundations
IBM Lotus Web Content Management
WebsiteOfficial website

Lotus Software (called Lotus Development Corporation before its acquisition by IBM)[2] was an American software company based in Massachusetts; it was sold to India's HCL Technologies in 2018.

Lotus is most commonly known for the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet application, the first feature-heavy, user-friendly, reliable, and WYSIWYG-enabled product to become widely available in the early days of the IBM PC, when there was no graphical user interface. Much later, in conjunction with Ray Ozzie's Iris Associates, Lotus also released a groupware and email system, Lotus Notes. IBM purchased the company in 1995 for US$3.5 billion, primarily to acquire Lotus Notes and to establish a presence in the increasingly important client–server computing segment, which was rapidly making host-based products such as IBM's OfficeVision obsolete.[3]

On December 6, 2018, IBM announced the sale of Lotus Software/Domino to HCL for $1.8 billion.[4]


Logo of Lotus Development Corporation
Logo of Lotus Development Corporation

Lotus was founded in 1982 by partners Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs with backing from Ben Rosen.[5] Lotus' first product was presentation software for the Apple II known as Lotus Executive Briefing System. Kapor founded Lotus after leaving his post as head of development at VisiCorp, the distributors of the VisiCalc spreadsheet, and selling all his rights to Visi-Plot and Visi-Trend to Visi-Corp.

Shortly after Kapor left Visi-Corp, he and Sachs produced an integrated spreadsheet and graphics program. Even though IBM and VisiCorp had a collaboration agreement whereby Visi-Calc was being shipped simultaneously with the PC, Lotus had a superior product. Lotus released Lotus 1-2-3 on January 26, 1983.[6] The name referred to the three ways the product could be used, as a spreadsheet, graphing tool, and database manager. The last two functions were less often used in practice, but 1-2-3 was the most powerful spreadsheet program available.

Lotus was almost immediately successful, becoming the world's third largest microcomputer software company in 1983 with $53 million in sales in its first year,[7] compared to its business plan forecast of $1 million in sales. In 1982, Jim Manzi — a graduate of Colgate University and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy — came to Lotus as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company and became an employee four months later. In October 1984, he was named president, and in April 1986, he was appointed CEO, succeeding Kapor. In July of that same year, he also became chairman of the board. Manzi remained at the head of Lotus until 1995.[citation needed]


A book of Lotus Symphony (DOS) Reference Manual, published in 1984

As the popularity of the personal computer grew, Lotus quickly came to dominate the spreadsheet market. Lotus introduced other office products such as Ray Ozzie's Symphony in 1984 and the Jazz office suite for the Apple Macintosh computer in 1985. Jazz did very poorly in the market (in Guy Kawasaki's book The Macintosh Way, Lotus Jazz was described as being so bad, "even the people who pirated it returned it").[8] Also in 1985, Lotus bought Software Arts and discontinued its VisiCalc program.[9][10]

In the late 1980s, Lotus developed Lotus Magellan, a file management and indexing utility.[11] In this period, Manuscript, a word processor, Lotus Agenda, an innovative personal information manager (PIM) which flopped, and Improv, a ground-breaking modeling package (and spreadsheet) for the NeXT platform, were released. Improv also flopped, and none of these products significantly impacted the market.

"Look and feel" lawsuits[edit]

Lotus was involved in several lawsuits, of which the most significant was the "look and feel" cases which started in 1987. Lotus sued Paperback Software and Mosaic for copyright infringement, false and misleading advertising, and unfair competition over their low-cost clones of 1-2-3, VP Planner and Twin, and sued Borland over its Quattro spreadsheet. This led Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation, to found the League for Programming Freedom (LPF) and hold protests outside Lotus Development offices.[12] Paperback and Mosaic lost and went out of business; Borland won and survived. The LPF filed an amicus curiae brief in the Borland case.[13]

Diversification and acquisition by IBM[edit]

In the 1990s, to compete with Microsoft's Windows applications, Lotus had to buy in products such as Ami Pro (word processor),[14][15] Approach (database), and Threadz, which became Lotus Organizer. Several applications (1-2-3, Freelance Graphics, Ami Pro, Approach, and Lotus Organizer) were bundled together under the name Lotus SmartSuite. Although SmartSuite was bundled cheaply with many PCs and may initially have been more popular than Microsoft Office, Lotus quickly lost its dominance in the desktop applications market with the transition from 16- to 32-bit applications running on Windows 95. In large part due to its focusing much of its development resources on a suite of applications for IBM's new (and eventually commercially unsuccessful) OS/2 operating system, Lotus was late in delivering its suite of 32-bit products and failed to capitalize on the transition to the new version of Windows. The last significant new release was the SmartSuite Millennium Edition, released in 1999.[16][17]

All new development of the suite was ended in 2000, with ongoing maintenance being moved overseas. The last update release was in 2014.[18]

Lotus began its diversification from the desktop software business with its 1984 strategic founding investment in Ray Ozzie's Iris Associates, the creator of its Lotus Notes groupware platform. As a result of this early speculative move, Lotus gained significant experience in network-based communications years before other competitors in the PC world had even started thinking about networked computing or the Internet. Lotus initially brought Lotus Notes to market in 1989 and later reinforced its market presence by acquiring cc:Mail in 1991.[19] In 1994, Lotus acquired Iris Associates. Lotus's dominant groupware position attracted IBM, which needed to make a strategic move away from host-based messaging products and to establish a stronger presence in client-server computing, but it also soon attracted stiff competition from Microsoft Exchange Server.[citation needed]

In the second quarter of 1995, IBM launched a hostile bid for Lotus[2] with a $60-per-share tender offer when Lotus' stock was only trading at $32. Jim Manzi looked for potential white knights and forced IBM to increase its bid to $64.50 per share for a $3.5 billion buyout of Lotus in July 1995.[20] On October 11, 1995, Manzi announced his resignation from what had become the Lotus Development division of IBM; he left with stock worth $78 million.

Assimilation of name, website, and branding[edit]

While IBM allowed Lotus to develop, market, and sell its products under its own brand name, a restructuring in January 2001[21] brought it more in line with its parent company, IBM. Also, IBM moved vital marketing and management functions from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to IBM's New York office.

Gradually, the Lotus.com website changed its "About us" section to eliminate references to "Lotus Development Corporation". The Lotus.com web page in 2001 clearly showed the company as "Lotus Development Corporation" with "a word from its CEO" by 2002, the "About us" section was removed from its site menu, and the Lotus logo was replaced with the IBM logo. By 2003 an "About Lotus" link returned to the Lotus.com page on its sidebar, but this time identifying the company as "Lotus software from IBM" and showing in its contact information "Lotus Software, IBM Software Group". By 2008 the Lotus.com domain name stopped showing a standalone site, instead redirecting to www.ibm.com/software/lotus, and in 2012 the site discontinued all reference to Lotus Software in favor of IBM Collaboration Solutions.

IBM discontinued development of IBM Lotus Symphony in 2012 with the final release of version 3.0.1, moving future development effort to Apache OpenOffice, and donating the source code to the Apache Software Foundation.[22] Later that year, IBM announced it was discontinuing the Lotus brand[23] and on March 13, 2013, IBM announced the availability of IBM Notes and Domino 9.0 Social Edition,[24] replacing prior versions of IBM Lotus Notes and IBM Lotus Domino and marking the end of Lotus as an active brand.

On December 6, 2018, IBM announced the selling of Lotus Software/Domino to HCL for $1.8 billion.[4]

Corporate culture[edit]

Mitch Kapor

Lotus's first employee was Janet Axelrod, who created the Human Resources organization and was the central figure in creating the Lotus culture. As she continued to build her organization and play a central role with senior management, she eventually hired Freada Klein as the first director of employee relations.[citation needed]

In 1995 Lotus had over 4,000 employees worldwide; IBM's acquisition of Lotus was greeted with apprehension by many Lotus employees, who feared that the corporate culture of "Big Blue" would smother their creativity. To the surprise of many employees and journalists, IBM initially adopted a very hands-off, laissez-faire attitude toward its new acquisition.[25]

However, by 2000 the assimilation of Lotus was well underway. While the mass employee defections that IBM feared did not materialize, many long-time Lotus employees did complain about the transition to IBM's culture—IBM's employee benefits programs, in particular, were singled out as inferior to Lotus's very progressive programs.[citation needed]

Lotus's headquarters in Cambridge were initially divided into two buildings, the Lotus Development Building (LDB) on the banks of the Charles River and the Rogers Street building, adjacent to the CambridgeSide Galleria. However, in 2001, President and General Manager Al Zollar decided to keep the lease of LDB. The subsequent migration of employees across the street (and into home offices) generally coincided with the final departure of employees from the company. Later, IBM's offices at 1 Rogers St supported mobile employees, the Watson Research Center on User interface, and IBM DataPower.


IBM sponsored the "Lotus Greenhouse", a community web site featuring software from IBM and its business partners.

Discontinued products[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kendall, Robert (15 September 1993). "LotusWorks 3.0 review". PC Magazine. 11 (3): 333. Retrieved 20 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Simon Sharwood (October 30, 2017). "IBM offloads Notes and Domino to India's HCL Technologies". TheRegister.co.uk.
  3. ^ Dunn, John E. (18 September 2007), IBM takes fight to Microsoft with Lotus Symphony, Techworld.com, retrieved 2007-12-10
  4. ^ a b IBM selling Lotus Notes/Domino business to HCL for $1.8B, 7 December 2018, archived from the original on 2007-10-13
  5. ^ Arin E. Hartley (2000). On-demand Learning: Training in the New Millennium. Human Resource Development. ISBN 978-0874255393.
  6. ^ "Goodbye, Lotus 1-2-3". ZDnet.com.
  7. ^ Caruso, Denise (1984-04-02). "Company Strategies Boomerang". InfoWorld. pp. 80–83. Retrieved 10 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Mitch Kapor remembers Lotus' Macintosh bomb". Cnet.com.
  9. ^ "Lotus acquires Software Arts". Infoworld. June 24, 1985. p. 20.
  10. ^ "VisiCalc discontinued". Infoworld. June 2, 1986. p. 8.
  11. ^ James Fallows (August 1, 1997). "Zoot!". Atlantic magazine.
  12. ^ John Scwartz; Debra Rosenberg (August 27, 1990). "Computing the Cost of Copyright: Programmers fight "Look and Feel" lawsuits". Newsweek.
  13. ^ Moglen, Eben; Karlan, Pamela S. (1995), Brief of Amicus Curiae: League for Programming Freedom in Support of Respondent, archived from the original on 2007-11-18, retrieved 2007-12-10
  14. ^ "Ami Pro, also called just Ami initially, was a word processor sold by Samna and later Lotus Software, where it became Lotus Word Pro." "AmiPro 3.x". WinWorldPC.com.
  15. ^ "There is much to recommend Ami Pro 2.0, the latest version of Lotus Corp.'s high-powered word processing program for Windows. "Lotus Ami Pro Program Is Hard to Beat". LA Times. October 24, 1991.
  16. ^ "8 easy Y2K fixes". CNN.com. December 9, 1999. Archived from the original on June 25, 2021. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  17. ^ "IBM Lotus SmartSuite". IBM. 2017-07-13.
  18. ^ "IBM Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus SmartSuite and Lotus Organizer". October 26, 2014.
  19. ^ "Lotus to add electronic mail unit". The New York Times. 12 Feb 1991. Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  20. ^ Darrow, Barbara (12 December 2003), Jim Manzi, CRN.com[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Lotus restructuring may lead to tighter IBM control". CNET. Retrieved 2020-07-14.
  22. ^ Gavin Clarke (July 14, 2011). "IBM crams Lotus Symphony back into OpenOffice". The Register. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  23. ^ Darryl K. Taft (November 17, 2012). "IBM Drops Lotus Brand, Takes Notes and Domino Forward". Eweek. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  24. ^ "IBM Notes and Domino 9.0 Social Edition puts you on a solid path to becoming a social business". IBM United States Software Announcement 213-085. IBM. March 12, 2013. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
  25. ^ Rifkin, Glenn. "Post-Merger Integration: How I.B.M. and Lotus Work Together". strategy+business. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  26. ^ Software withdrawal and discontinuance of support: Lotus SmartSuite, Lotus Organizer and Lotus 123
  27. ^ Noyes, Katherine (27 January 2012). "Coming Soon: An 'IBM Edition' of Apache OpenOffice". PCWorld. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  28. ^ Perrators, Ed (August 1991). "Integrated Software review: LotusWorks 1.0". PC Magazine: 276. Retrieved 20 February 2018.

External links[edit]

  • Official website
    • Historical business data for Lotus Development Corp.:
    • SEC filings
  • Lotus.com Official website (Archive)
  • Oral history interview with Jonathan Sachs discusses the development of Lotus 1-2-3, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota