Angus: Do we need IBM’s help?

Having posted the IBM i community survey at ibmi2.com, the results are intriguing, to say the least. Much of the pushback about the platform and the name seems to come with pre-built tired excuses. Most of it seems to stem from resistance to change, and in that vitriol, IBM is blamed for many things, including poor marketing, ‘too many’ renames, and so on.

While the IBM blame game stems from much misinformation, myth and fairy tale, there are a couple of obvious things over which IBM does have control, which are impacting the community. First, IBM internal references to the platform. Second, IBM i OS itself. Let’s review each.

One of the common excuses is that IBM still refers to the platform as AS/400. We hear that from IBM sales people, from IBM support, and from other IBM employees who think the AS/400 is dead. During the PureSystems announcement, one of the speakers uttered these words: “IBM has been at this now for some decades. Some of you will remember AS/400. This is an application system that was an industry specialized solution, that was designed to go work. Many of these systems, by the way, are still working. I’ve happened to run into quite a few of them as I go around the world.” While we know the majority of the Power Systems team at IBM are working to promote IBM i, this is very sad.

While at the COMMON Annual Conference in Anaheim recently, the IBM Champions were able to spend a little time talking to the Power marketing team, including several IBMers with IBM i responsibility. From that, we were led to believe that there may be an opportunity for IBM Champions to talk to IBMers. Until one of us is in front of a group of IBMers, I will remain skeptical, however, it is nice to know this could be a possibility. Regardless, IBM needs to do something about this perception of IBM i inside their own organization.

Of course, that also applies to their business partners. In one hardware partner I know well, they still sell System p and iSeries to this day. While there are certifications for IBM business partners to show their skills in technical and platform sales, maybe there should be a certification required of ALL business partner employees on branding and nomenclature. Add to that a set of presentations on how to educate the customers on their chosen platform, to pitch the future of the platform and counter the competition attempting to sway those who see “AS/400″ as old and outdated.

The second point is in regard to the IBM i operating system itself. There are still many places inside and around the product that require attention. One simple example is the page related to the IBM i Access product. While the ‘Client Access’ name is sticky, the correct branding is now applied to the product. Until you look at the title, which says: “IBM System i Access for Windows Home Page”. This lack of attention to detail can be another flame in the fire that burns against the current branding.

Certainly, there are a multitude of redbooks and documents that contain outdated references, and it may be appropriate to recognize the enormity of that effort and give it some leeway. And, it is important to note that none of us know, or expect to influence, where IBM places its budget for OS enhancements. Given a choice of fixing nomenclature and providing enhancements to the OS, our preference is certainly with the latter.

The issue is not so much with the nomenclature or its use (we will get through that in a decade or so), but with IBM not publicly showing their commitment to working on either of these efforts. If we are to have the IBM i branding for the long term, and IBM has committed to that, it would be nice to see a public face on these issues.

So, if these issues matter to you, ask an IBMer next time you see them. Start with your appreciation of what they are doing for IBM i and the community, then add the request for them to tell the community how they are going to address these items. Or, tweet a request, write a post on LinkedIn, make some noise on an internet forum, spread the word at your local user group – the possibilities are endless!

6 Comments

Bob CozziMay 21st, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Um, ya, right. Why is it important that non-IBMers care WTF the name is or how they use it? If the owner/manufacturer is failing at its marketing and its own customers are so confused that (I would speculate) “most” don’t even know the actual product name. This is not because so-and-so called it “AS/400″. I is because it has NO NAME today. “This product name intentionally left blank.”

“i” is NOT a name. It is a letter. Normal customers either don’t get that the OS name is “i” (on my v5.4 system it says it is “i5/OS Main Menu” and on my v7.1 system it says “IBM i Main Menu”. And yet, the actual hardware product name is something else (I’m not even sure what the hardware product name is today).

Everyone refers to the hardware by the model numbers. I have a 720 or we have three 520′s. Customers do NOT know what the product name is, just the model number. The word “POWER” is so 1980′s that many think its some reference to the PowerRangers.

When I first heard “pureSystems” it was about 2 weeks before they announced–no I didn’t have an NDA, I was driving back to Chicago from a client in Michigan and saw all those “Pure Michigan” billboards. I thought to myself, how can I work the word “pure” into a product name and capitalize on the time and expense the state of Michigan has put into it? True story… Then IBM announces “PURE SYSTEMS” and I thought, de ja vu. Where did I hear that… Doh!

Anyway, pureSystems (with all due respect to the marketing greats of the State of Michigan) is just another “me too” or “we’re too dumb to come up with our own name for our own product” I’m not exactly sure what happened with calling the operating system “IBM IOS” or IBM i O/S” What are they afraid Apple has deep lawyer pockets but Michigan doesn’t?

The IBM Product Naming Dept. S****” and that is why they fail at getting their own customers to know what the name of their product actually is. It is NOT because their customers don’t know the name. It isn’t the customer’s fault. If I called my MacBook Pro a “PowerBook” then I’d agree with you Trev, it would be my fault. But I don’t, I call it a MacBook and sometimes “MacBook Pro” when I want people to know I spent more on it than I should have.

But the ONLY way I can tell someone I own a computer running IBM i operating system, is by saying “Ya, I’ve got an AS/400 in my basement.” That, they understand. Sorry IBM but you #FAILed

angustheitchapMay 22nd, 2012 at 3:07 pm

Bob,

What is the purpose of your comment. My blog entry was about the name IBM has chosen – FOUR years ago, btw – and how we ~accept~ it. Given that, we need IBM to let us know the effort they will spend to make the name more prevalent throughout their products and inside the OS.

Your comment tells us about how you don’t like the name. So?

Then you ramble on about how you came up with a better name before IBM did. So?

This is your third comment to my blog, and it is the same basic comment you posted twice before. In over a year, a large proportion of people in this community have moved forward. You seem to want to spend some time holding them back by arguing about whether or not the name is a good one – in your opinion. As of 2012, the IBM i name looks like it is not going away. You seem to have no influence on IBM when it comes to naming, but apparently you think it is worth some kind of spat.

If you consider yourself to be an industry leader, then I encourage you to stop looking like an outdated RPG programmer who complains about the name. I encourage you to work out how you ~can~ use the correct branding, and bring a bunch of existing customers to the future, and promote the platform outside of the small world you live in.

Steve PitcherMay 22nd, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Bob, I gave a training session today where I taught 7 of my users a whole bunch of stuff on IBM Lotus Domino for 2 hours and 20 minutes. It took me no more than 60 seconds to explain that all this awesome stuff runs on the great, great grandchild of the AS/400: IBM Power Systems. I told them our technology is barely a few years old. It impressed the hell out of them and gave them a brief insight into our little world of technology.

What did that cost me? 60 seconds. Longer than it took to write this post.

The only difference is, with my users, I know for a fact that my words are not falling on deaf ears. Because of your comment’s tone, I’m not so sure.

In the end, my users, including my VP of Finance and Director of Finance were both educated and even excited about the technology. All of it, not just the pretty front end.

This education and excitement will help by me the ability to do more things down the road, from buying more disk to software initiatives.

It’s sad to see such a negative post because I’ve bought a your books in the past. I hope you can sit down and really ask yourself: what do you really gain by using the AS/400 name?

Bob CozziMay 22nd, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Trev, I’m wondering why you keep harping the name? Any nae that’s that old and still doesn’t “stick” is a failure. Don’t get me wrong I’m on board, I used the name in context. I don’t call my i5 a Power System and I don’t call the model 720 an As/400. I guess my point is hearing “It’s IBM i” over and over and over by the same one or two people means the name isn’t working. And a lot of redundant bandwidth is being used up with the echo but little progress.

My point, who cares what it’s called if the company that owns the brand doesn’t seem to get 2012 marketing? Let’s do things that really matter. Let selling more boxes and getting it in more companies.

angustheitchapMay 22nd, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Bob,

I expect you haven’t been reading all my writing lately. It is about the perception – the name is the just the start of that.

How can we try to sell a new box if the community thinks it is an AS/400? You cannot go to a prospective customer and say “wanna buy this old box?”. The community has to come together on the perception of the platform, before the rest of I.T. will stop thinking we live in some backwards dark green hollow – and that starts with something as simple as the name.

It doesn’t help if one or two people continue to scream that the old name is just as good as any other, and leads the community back into the dark green hollow. FWIW, there are now more than one or two people who support and promote the perception of IBM i as beyond AS/400 – I just happen to have been doing it longer than almost everyone else. And, from what I see, it is worth the effort.

And it doesn’t help if the community doesn’t know that AS/400, iSeries and System i were REPLACED by Power Systems – if people keep saying it was just a name change, then we lose forward momentum and slide back into the dark green hollow. As a community, we have to start USING the platform like it is a 2012 OS, with modern tools, modern interfaces, and modern development methodologies. Calling it AS/400 means people are still using it like it was 1999 and SEU rules.

Sure, when you have an iSeries, or AS/400, you should call it by its name. But that is not the debate. The debate is what we call the platform in general, when we are talking about the thing we have in common inside this community. Are we an IBM i community? I would like to think so. Until the AS/400 community moves beyond 2000, the iSeries community beyond 2006, the System i community beyond 2008, we won’t have one community, but four. And propagating that division is really something that hurts us all.

We do have to stop ALL the name BS – including the argument that it is a bad name. Sure, it is an awkward name for google and Word. Four years ago we were given the IBM i brand to go with the Power Systems brand – do you really want IBM to change it ~again~? All you need to say is IBM i on Power is the best platform available on the planet TODAY. Why is it so hard to use the name IBM i (writing) or even just i (speaking)? It really is a simple place to begin, and maybe, just maybe, with a new perception of what we have, existing customers will talk about migrating TO their new IBM i on Power, NEW customers will think they are on the most wonderful OS, and our platform will grow again to its rightful place in the new world of agile, cloud, scalable, integrated systems.

And all we have to do is just stop saying the platform is called AS/400.

Then we just shut up about “AS/400″, educate those who need to be (read Steve’s comment above), and just say IBM i all the time.

JPOctober 9th, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Call it what you want, but the operating system is still XPF and SLIC it’s the same operating system of the AS/400 with new changes. It is still green screen. The hardware, vastly different is of course the major difference.

While no PC in the world comes close to it’s power, very few of us wanted to continue on the death march of only programming on this platform. The first thing I did in 1999 when Lou pretty much killed the platform development was start to learn Java! That got me to C# which I’ve been working in for past 12 years. Thank God for Java! I will never again work intentionally on an IBM platform.

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