IBM Shifts Course on Lotus Notes Client

The next version of the software, code-named Hannover, will incorporate rich-client capabilities from Lotus Workplace, but it won't require customers to license any Workplace technologies.

IBM is developing a next-generation Lotus Notes client that incorporates many of the rich-client features of the companys Lotus Workplace offering and may ultimately eliminate customers needs to embrace Workplace as a separate platform.

IBM had previously envisioned the next-generation Notes client release as sitting on top of Workplace, with licensing issues unclear. The updated version, slated for availability by the end of next year, incorporates much of the Workplace rich-client technology and even code but will not require Notes customers to license any Workplace technologies beyond upgrading their Notes and Domino licenses.

Lotus Workplace is IBMs J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition)-based messaging and collaboration platform that the company has developed in parallel to its flagship Notes and Domino platform for the past two years. IBM has steadfastly maintained that Workplace was not a replacement for Notes and Domino, though technology road maps released by the company have envisioned some eventual merging of the technologies. In the meantime, demand has surged for Notes and Domino, with the flagship platform enjoying 17 percent revenue growth over the last two quarters.

The new Notes client, which Lotus Software general manager Ambuj Goyal was due to preview at the Deutsche Notes User Group Conference in Hannover, Germany, on Tuesday, is IBMs strongest statement yet that Notes will continue to evolve independently of Workplace. The release, which will proceed the Notes 7 release due later this summer, is code-named Hannover.

Hannover will include many of the rich-client capabilities of the Workplace client. Users will be able to drag and drop e-mail addresses to their contact lists, then have a record of all collaborative interactions and projects with which that contact has been involved. Users will also be able to track all collaborative activities in Notes through a new "Activities" tab. Lotus officials call this "activity-centric" computing.

Hannover will also support contextual collaboration—collaboration in the context of another activity—and composite applications that integrate data and functionality from third-party applications within the Notes client. Domino Designer will support the building of these applications, company officials said.

"Were taking advantage of parts of the rest of our portfolio that dont replace Notes, but enhance it in new ways," said Art Fontaine, marketing manager at the Lotus Software division of IBM. "Were moving away from the e-mail-centric to the activity-centric world. Were starting to introduce the idea that when you do something, the system recognizes the links between the components of the activity."

Hannover will also be a server-managed client, according to Fontaine, with the client runtime provisioned, deployed, managed and locked down by the Domino server, technology that was introduced in Workplace last year.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here to read about recent high-risk security holes in Lotus Notes and Domino.

Fontaine said IBM was surprised at just how easily it was to integrate Workplace and Notes, noting that the ability to run the Notes client from within Workplace was moved up to the upcoming Notes 7 release.

While Notes and Domino are absorbing technology and code developed for Workplace, Fontaine said IBM would continue to position Workplace as an offering that would give Notes and Domino customers additional functionality they couldnt get with Notes, which at this point is mainly advanced document management and editing features, he said.

Licensing for Hannover has not yet been determined, though Fontaine said it would not require a separate Workplace license.

In another interesting development, the Workplace Designer application development tool, due to ship in the next 90 days, will be "available together" with Domino Designer, though the products would maintain separate runtimes, according to Fontaine. He said a decision on licensing for this package was "pending."

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.