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My first day at the IBMConnectED 2015 event is about two thirds over but I’m feeling beat. Besides the early start, everything about the conference is more compact. The ballroom for the keynotes was crowded and a lot of people were standing. The Tech Oasis defied the term oasis entirely by being held in a cramped, packed ballroom that was hot and didn’t smell all that good. Environments such as this make one feel tired and grumpy.

No matter. The announcements were worth the minor irritations. For many attendees, this was their first exposure to IBM Verse, the new email client. Analysts and the press have been briefed on this new product before but it was great to hear what customers thought of it. Many were excited and had plans to deploy it when it became available in the first quarter of 2015. There was a lot of buzz about the freemium model but most attendees I spoke with dismissed it was a marketing ploy. These are enterprise IT people. Freemium is not relevant except as a way of getting their end-users and themselves used to the idea of the new client.

Channel partners, on the other hand, are more of a wild card. The partners that Neuralytix spoke to before IBMConnectED had barely heard of IBM Verse and didn’t think they would make much headway against Microsoft Exchange customers. IBM asserted that the partners IBM spoke with were excited by the freemium model. I’m not sure. I could believe they felt ambivalent. The freemium model is part of a move down market and that doesn’t describe the IBM channel. Maybe the freemium announcement is simply good marketing. It remains to be seen what will happen there.

I think the announcement that IBM will also have a standalone file sync and share product will be greeted with more enthusiasm. IBM’s traditional enterprise customers need a secure file sharing solutions that supports mobile devices. It will not do to have end-users deploying their own consumer solutions and IBM will be a name they will trust. It’s also something that channel partners can get behind since it keeps companies such as Box and DropBox out of their accounts.

IBM Connections is also undergoing a facelift. Facelift is probably an understatement. The user experience is very similar to IBM Verse which will help when the two products are deployed together. The content management tools and outward facing IBM Connections also blur the line between ECM, WCM, and enterprise social networks. Also, like IBM Verse, IBM Connections has analytics and Watson integration. These changes replfect two big trends in software: the breakdown of walls between different types of collaboration solutions and the integration of analytics with everything in the workplace.

IBM is acting more and more like a growth tech company despite its size. This is tough with a company the size of IBM but they are doing it. And their customers seem to be willing to come along for the ride.