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Volume 7, Number 31 -- August 21, 2007

Notes/Domino 8 Hits the Streets

Published: August 21, 2007

by Dan Burger

At IBM Lotus, the introduction of Notes/Domino 8 last Friday was a huge step into the future. More than at any time in recent memory, Notes has taken off its old coat and put on something fashionable. Actually it's more than high fashion. It's highly functional, too. These days it pays to be smart as well as look smart.

Although Lotus has been developing collaboration tools for the Notes environment for years, this is the first evolution of Notes that neatly packages Web 2.0-style collaboration with composite application capabilities and lets it all ride on an open source Eclipse-based environment. In short, it's never been more of a threat to a Microsoft since the days when that company claimed the top position in the e-mail and collaboration market. Notes 8 makes Lotus not only a cost-wise competitor, but an innovator in many areas as well.

Notes 8 is going to be a critical release. Not only is Lotus in a battle with Microsoft, but it also has to deal with Google, Mozilla, Eudora, and other shareware. But Notes 8 gives current users a reason to stay on the Notes platform and it stands a good chance of bringing some new customers to the installed base--not exactly a Notes/Domino trait. Whether it's a sales momentum builder or simply a brake on a continuing market share slide is soon to be determined. In the Lotus camp, there's reason for optimism.

These high expectations are based on its integration of business applications (help desk and CRM are two examples) with numerous collaboration devices (blogs, Wikis, and instant messaging, for instance) and its support for plug-in and composite application interfaces allowing mashups formerly unavailable. In this way a user's most useful and most used applications are conveniently organized in the inbox, making Notes the home base for tasks that go beyond e-mail and other communication options. One of the notable features is a search tool that extends to the Web and to the hard drive in addition to the normal e-mail and contacts search function. For the first time, Notes is providing access to projects and activities and information, as well as being a people connector. IBM wants to emphasize the business value of both the application building aspects and the social networking capabilities Notes now offers.

As Alan Lepofsky, senior manager of Lotus Strategy, points out, this is the first version of Notes that goes beyond being an e-mail client and the capability to only read NFS databases. "It used to be client-server technology and [work with] Web browsers that talked to HTTP servers--Outlook clients talked to Exchange servers and Notes clients talked to Domino servers. Now the Notes client, because it is built on the Eclipse framework, has the capability to read Java and J2EE applications, portlet applications, plus back-end integration with systems like PeopleSoft, Siebel, and SAP. ISVs are already building applications that run in Lotus Notes, but it's not what users used to think of as Lotus Notes. You can now bring in data from multiple sources onto one screen."

Not only does this provide a convenience in aggregating information, but it allows users to work with that data. New records can be created within that application so that users can update the backend system, for instance. This is where the ISVs will get creative with new software that takes advantage of this higher level of integration. CRM applications are likely to lead the way in this area.

In addition to the capability to "wire" applications together within Notes 8, another convenient feature is the set of Open Document Format (ODF) productivity tools--word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations--that do not require additional licensing charges. (How much did you say you were paying in licenses to Microsoft?) In case you were wondering, this allows Microsoft Office and Open Office files to be imported, exported, and saved in either file format.

And Lotus isn't going to let people forget it supports multiple platforms. Playing the anti-Microsoft card is guaranteed to win a few hands when selling to a pro-choice audience. On the client side, it's Windows and Linux (Macintosh is coming soon), and on the server side it runs on Windows, i5/OS, AIX, Linux, and a Sun Microsystems Solaris.

Lotus Notes 8 software pricing starts at $101 per client. Clients for a browser-based alternative, IBM Domino Web Access, are $73 per user. IBM Lotus Domino server software starts at $14.75 per value unit. Lotus Domino Express solutions for small and mid size businesses, including client and server, start at $99 per user.

IBM officials say that in a price comparison with Microsoft, it is necessary to include multiple components such as Outlook, Exchange, SharePoint, Visual Studio, Active Directory, and SQL Server--the pieces that comprise Microsoft Small Business Server. The Domino infrastructure includes a directory, e-mail client, offline support, replication, and an application development platform where help desks and product catalogs can be created without additional software charges.

IBM's strategy of the more you use Notes/Domino 8, the more value it provides, particularly when compared to Microsoft's method, may be the most important feature of all.


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