Lotus Software

From Academic Kids

Lotus Software (called Lotus Development Corporation before its acquisition by IBM) is an American software company with its headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Lotus was founded in 1982 by partners Mitch Kapor and Jonathan Sachs. Lotus' first product was presentation software for the Apple II known as Lotus Executive Briefing System, but the company is more broadly known for its groundbreaking Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet application released in January 1983.

As the popularity of the personal computer grew, Lotus quickly came to dominate the office suite market. Lotus introduced other office products such as Ray Ozzie's Symphony and the Jazz office suite for the Apple Macintosh computer and acquired many software companies to gain products such as Freelance Graphics, Ami Pro, Approach, and Organizer. In the late 1980s, Lotus developed Lotus Magellan, a file management and indexing utility. In the early 1990s, several of the products were bundled together under the name Lotus SmartSuite. Although SmartSuite was initially more popular than Microsoft Office, Lotus lost its dominance in the desktop applications market. SmartSuite still ships by default with some Compaq and IBM laptops, although it has continued to lose market share since its launch.

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 had gained significant experience in network-based communications years before other competitors in the PC world had even started thinking about the Internet. Lotus initially brought Notes to market in 1989, and later reinforced its market presence with the acquisition of cc:Mail in 1991. In 1994, Lotus acquired Iris Associates. Lotus's dominant groupware position soon faced stiff competition from Microsoft Exchange, but in 2004, twenty years after its groundbreaking agreement with Iris, Lotus Notes continued to lead the market according to some measures.



It has been repeatedly alleged that in 1997 the NSA had backdoored the export version of Lotus Notes, but this is a mis-characterization of what actually happened. Prior to that year, Lotus had been restricted from exporting software that used encryption keys that were longer than 40 bits by United States law. Under an agreement with the US government, Lotus was allowed to start exporting 64 bit keys, so long as 24 bits of each key were recoverable using a special key issued by Lotus to the NSA. The result was that the newer version of Lotus Notes provided stronger protection against industrial espionage than any previous version had been allowed to provide, and it provided no less protection against decryption by the NSA than the previous versions had given. (US export regulations were changed in 2001, so current versions of Lotus products are able to use longer keys and they no longer provide NSA with access to any key bits.)

Corporate culture

Missing image
Mitch Kapor

Following in founder Mitch Kapor's footsteps, Lotus has always had a reputation as a progressive company. In 1986, Lotus was the first major company to support an AIDS walk. In 1990, Lotus opened a daycare for the children of its employees. In 1992, Lotus was the first major company to offer full benefits to same-sex partners. In 1998, Lotus was named one of the Top 10 best companies to work for working mothers by Working Mother magazine.

Lotus, which employs over 4,000 employees worldwide, was acquired by IBM in July 1995 for 3.5 billion dollars. IBM's purchase 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 adopted a very hands-off, laissez-faire attitude towards its new acquisition.

However, by the year 2000, the inevitable assimilation of Lotus was almost complete. While the mass employee defections that IBM so 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).

Lotus's headquarters in Cambridge used to be divided into two buildings, the Lotus Development Building (LDB) (on the banks of the Charles River) and the Rogers Street building, located adjacent to the CambridgeSide Galleria. However, in 2001, then President and General Manager, Al Zollar decided not to renew the lease of LDB. The subsequent migration of employees across the street (and into home offices) generally coincided with what was probably the final exodus of employees from the company.

The integration of Lotus into IBM continues. Today, it is a software brand within IBM's Software Group. Within Lotus, there is still a strong sense of unity. Many employees formerly within Lotus, though they have moved into and embraced the rest of IBM, still identify with Lotus and see themselves as part of the Lotus community.


Mitch Kapor got the name for his company from 'The Lotus Position' or 'Padmasana'. Kapor used to be a teacher of Transcendental Meditation technique as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Incidentally, competitor Borland code-named their Quattro Pro software "Buddha", as the software was meant to "assume the Lotus position" and take over Lotus 1-2-3's market.

External links

hu:Lotus (szoftver) pl:Lotus Development Corporation


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