IBM Beefs Up Lotus Workplace Platform

Company on Wednesday introduced new applications for instant messaging, collaboration and content management. Executives affirm continued support for Notes and Domino platforms.

BOSTON—IBM Corp. announced Wednesday new applications on its Lotus Workplace platform for instant messaging and team collaboration, e-learning and content management.

The new products add to Lotus J2EE-based next-generation platform, which previously had been limited to basic e-mail and some vertical-specific collaborative applications

A new version of the original Lotus Workplace product, Workplace Messaging 1.1, was also announced. New features include a personal calendar and address book, and an updated user interface based on IBMs WebSphere Portal.

IBM also announced Lotus Workplace Team Collaboration 1.1, which includes instant messaging and presence awareness as well as team collaboration workspaces, where discussion forums and document libraries can be set up for particular projects.

In addition, IBM will transition the Lotus Learning Management System to the Workplace platform with the next release, which will be called Lotus Workplace Collaborative Learning 1.1. The product supports management of programs, resources and course materials for both classroom-based and e-learning programs.

The fourth product announced Wednesday was Lotus Workplace Web Content Management 1.1, which is rebranded technology IBM acquired from Aptrix earlier this year.

All of the Workplace products are built on J2EE and integrated with each other. Customers can license the entire platform—IBM plans to soon offer a bundle of the platform with WebSphere Portal Server—or only the applications they need.

Lotus general manager Ambuj Goyal, speaking at the launch event here, said Workplace represents a break from Lotus proprietary past.

"I like to open things up," said Goyal. Were not going to be myopic about the base [technology] by bundling everything into the base. [That strategy] almost cost the company in the early 90s. The competition still needs to learn that lesson," he said, in a pointed reference to Microsoft, which IBM officials regard as the only real competitor to their collaboration platform offerings.

IBM officials reiterated throughout the event that its existing Notes and Domino platform for messaging and collaboration wasnt going anywhere and would continue to be developed in conjunction with Workplace.

"IBM is going to pass the intelligence test," promised Larry Bowden, vice president of Lotus Workplace products at IBM, noting that IBM wasnt about to force 110 million Notes users to migrate to a different platform.

"There was a Version 6 and 6.5 [of Notes and Domino], theres going to be a Version 7 and a Version 8," said Bowden. "Customers have built thousands of applications on the Domino application server that have to delivered to Workplace.

"The Domino application server is going to be around for at least the next decade."

Notes meanwhile remains a "strategic front-end" interface for Workplace, Bowden said. He said Notes and Domino support and development would remain for as long as customers needed it.

A point release of Notes and Domino, 6.5.1, is planned for the first quarter of next year. Then in the second quarter, IBM plans to release Workplace 2.0 featuring a rich client built on the Eclipse framework, collaborative document management and Workplace Builder, an application development toolkit for Workplace.

At the same time, support for team workspaces and document management will be added to Notes and Domino.

By the fourth quarter, Workplace will get a disconnected client and mobile development support in its 2.5 version, while the 7.0 version of Notes and Domino gets integration with Workplace, enhanced portlets for WebSphere and support for DB2 as the data store.

The 8.0 version of Notes and Domino, likely for some time in 2005, will allow Notes users to access non-IBM applications, such as a Siebel Systems Inc. call center application for example, from within Notes.