What Happened to the iSociety?
January 8, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
With much fanfare at the last of the Fall COMMON conferences and expos that we will ever see, the midrange user group, back by strong support from IBM and other key System i players, launched the iSociety, a portal for organizing the community of AS/400, iSeries, and System i5 shops.
So, what happened to the iSociety?
Initially, a subset of the iSociety site was hosted on COMMON’s own Web site, but as promised, the full iSociety site is now running on its own at www.isociety.org. The iSociety domain was owned by the New York Social Diary, which is now at the domain newyorksocialdiary.com and, for some bizarre reason, is confused with another domain called lasocialdiary.com by the services that count Web traffic. I only bring this up because at this point, there are no good numbers showing what traffic is going into the iSociety site. The COMMON site had a brief uptick in traffic after iSociety was launched, but then it dropped off back to the normal levels. Ditto for the related System i Portal aggregation site that is one of the foundation blocks of the iSociety.
COMMON is still hosting a part of the iSociety site, which is itself a portal, really, and that part is the iSociety Online Networking Center. The purpose of this site is to bring iSociety members together, but you need a COMMON identification number and password to get in. The iSociety portal also links to the newsgroups at Midrange-L, the sassy pages of the AngusTheITChap site run by System i consultant and wiseguy Trevor Perry, and a bunch of other areas of interest.
So, basically, iSociety is a portal that feeds into other portals and sites. It is useful, in as much as the collection of Websites and portals that feed into each other can help cross-pollinate ideas in the System i community. And, it is also useful to have marketing collateral, videos, and other material accessible from a few links, and some of the stuff in the iSociety site is good fun–something we can all use, for sure. But it is hard to imagine how iSociety is going to fulfill its task of guerilla warfare and viral marketing for the i5/OS platform in the cut-throat server, application server, and database server markets, which the system spans.
People buy the computers that make them feel part of a group, that make them feel safe and normal. That is why people bought System/36s and then AS/400s. They also sometimes buy new technology for the sake of having new technology, and sometimes, as was the case with the System/38, they buy new technology because it is just a much better way to build a mousetrap. People also buy technology because they have a job to do and they are making an investment in the future of their company and their careers.
The trick to marketing the System i, as far as I can see, has always been simple, but IBM has been unwilling to do what is necessary. The System i needs to be an integrated, low-cost (upfront as well as over the long haul), application and database serving platform. And the problem is that IBM, its partners, and many of its customers believe that the System i is already these things. To be sure, the System i is cost-effective if that is what you know and that is what you are good at. And in 1990, it was as good as anything else out there on all fronts. But to new customers in the 21st century, the easiest thing in the world is to just use Windows on the server, just like they use Windows on their desktops. Which is why Windows commands about 45 percent of server revenues a year and the lion’s share of shipments, despite the limitations of Windows and, for a decade, the limitations of X86 iron. X64 iron is catching up, and so is the Windows operating system and related middleware stack.
When IBM understands that the System i is an underdog platform that needs to beat Windows on price, performance, marketing, and technology for SMB customers and stops thinking of it as a baby mainframe for what it calls midrange customers but who are really small enterprise shops, Big Blue will get its market back. And something like the iSociety could certainly help get that word out. But then again, if IBM made such a bold move, it would not need iSociety. The whole world would see what IBM was doing, and take appropriate notice.