I can't deny it. Gmail intrigues me. No, not the idea of Web-based email client. That's old hat. Rather, it's that Gmail gives me a box of tools that taken together are my personal command and control center. Everything I need to be connected, get to appointments, find a friend, stay in touch, locate stuff I need, and remain on task is in one spot.

It's convenient. It's my inbox next. It's my touchstone for personal communications.

But at work, I'm using an email client, an IM client, a calendar client, a task list client, a microblogging client, a browser client, and a bunch of other applications. Just getting from one to another gives me a headache.

So where's my business Gmail?

From where I'm sitting, that's the mission of Project Vulcan. Read Ed Brill's post for the official IBM description of the vision of a hyperlinked, rapidly-evolving, highly tailorable, multi-modal inbox. I've spoken with Alistair Rennie, Lotus's new GM, and Kevin Kavanaugh, VP and head of Notes & Domino, about this project.

My take is that Project Vulcan is nothing less than IBM's blueprint for the future of business messaging and collaboration. In particular, it will:


  • Build on Lotus's market and technology foundations.
  • Unify many kinds of communication media and apps into a single frame
  • Provide an anchor point for employees' information work day.
  • Use Web deployment to rapidly experiment and learn what works. (Yes, it's a code fork.)
  • Show up on LotusLive labs in pieces this year.
  • Serve as a laboratory for the next version of Lotus Notes.
  • Formarlize a new model for how innovation is deployed and tested.
  • Make a big bet on HTML5 to solve the mobile device deployment problem.
  • (For the record, I believe that HTML5 is the foundation for basic mobile applications, and I'm happy to see IBM join Google, Apple, and Microsoft in improving this important Web standard.)

As a blueprint, Project Vulcan creates the vision and puts up the guardrails for other parts of IBM to exploit and for information workers (empowered by IT professionals) to experiment with. It's a blueprint for inbox next. And:

  • Unlike Google Wave, which currently requires a wholesale transfer of a person's attention from the inbox to the Wave, Vulcan builds on the experiences and applications you currently use.
  • Unlike Outlook, which is stuck in a three-year release cycle, Vulcan uses the Web to extend and enhance the messaging and collaboration toolkit on a rapid release cycle.
  • Unlike Cisco's next-generation inbox, which has yet to be launched, Vulcan will have an 18 million user head start.


I'm intrigued. Are you?