IBM recently announced that it's no longer selling Lotus 1-2-3. Most readers of this blog likely have never heard of Lotus 1-2-3. But more experienced readers (meaning old) will remember 1-2-3 as their first PC spreadsheet and the first "killer app" for the PC.
Lotus Development Corporation released 1-2-3 in 1983 and it quickly became one of the most popular PC software products of its era.
Along with other now forgotten PC software companies like Word Perfect (word processing), Ashton-Tate (database) and Software Publishing (graphics), Lotus helped drive the PC revolution.
Lotus 1-2-3 rose and fell quickly. From near total market dominance in 1986, 1-2-3 became a competitive also-ran by 1993. A combination of corporate hubris, product and marketing miscues and fierce competition from Microsoft did it in.
By the time IBM acquired Lotus Development in 1995, 1-2-3 was effectively dead. So dead in fact, IBM didn't even want it (they acquired Lotus to get access to Lotus Notes).
Lotus Development Corporation was in many ways a trailblazing company. They were the first U.S. public company to offer benefits to same sex couples and one of the first to truly embrace and support women and minorities. They also focused on work/life balance issues before the term was even invented.
Lotus was also one of the first "work hard/play harder" tech firms. I'm reminded of this when I visit companies like Google and Facebook and realize how similar their cultures are to Lotus in its heyday.
Lotus was also an innovative marketer. Below is a promotional video Lotus did for an early version of 1-2-3. MTV had just launched a few years earlier and this was one of the first marketing videos of this style ever produced.
I joined Lotus in 1985 when they acquired a startup I was working for. I stayed until 1996 and enjoyed all my years there. Great people, exciting and challenging work and constant learning were all part of the job.
The big lessons from my time there are:
- Success is often fleeting.
- Long term success is both rare and hard to achieve.
- It's easy to think success is happening because of you when in fact it's happening despite you.
So rest in peace Lotus 1-2-3, and rest in peace Lotus Development Corporation.