Notes-Domino 8 Beta On Deck, Mid-Year GA Still on Schedule
January 30, 2007 Dan Burger
As IBM Lotus prepares to introduce a public beta program for Notes/Domino 8 leading up to the product’s ship date in mid-2007, Big Blue continues to emphasize the theme of open standards as its primary anti-Microsoft message. Collaboration, particularly as it applies to linking with applications that go beyond basic e-mail, continues to play an expanding role, as social networking tools are introduced to the workplace as an integral part of project management and the bridging of information silos.
The public beta program for Notes/Domino 8, the final beta phase, will launch in February. N/D 8 has been in what IBM calls “managed beta” since November 2006.
In its on-going battle with Microsoft Exchange, IBM is touting the open standards approach to Lotus Notes 8 and knifing Microsoft for its licensing strategy, which you could say is going for the soft underbelly of the beast. It’s true that Notes 8 features productivity editors that support the Open Document Format (ODF) and therefore users have access to office tools without incurring the costs of separate license. And it’s also true that Notes 8 allows users to import and export supported file formats used by Microsoft Office and Open Office file formats, edit those files, and save them in either the original format or as ODF documents.
The Notes 8 client can run on Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, and Linux. The Domino 8 server runs on Microsoft Windows, Linux, System i, System p, System z, and Sun Solaris.
IBM will hammer this multi-platform capability in its marketing messages as it attempts to portray the white hat-wearing Notes software running the black hat-wearing Exchange software out of town. If only it were that simple. Adding no-cost productivity editors in Lotus Notes 8 that are compatible with Office, and having the Open Office alternative to Microsoft Office and its attendant licensing fees, is an attractive proposition for current Notes users who are being courted by Microsoft, but it still will likely fall short of dissuading those who are not sold on the future of application development in the Domino/WebSphere arena. However, that’s another story that is rooted in skills rather than software, or hardware for that matter.
IBM and Microsoft are clearly the top combatants in the enterprise messaging market. In recent years, Microsoft has been increasing its market share and IBM Lotus has been holding, some say slipping from its position. In one of the most recent marketing research reports, this one from the Radicati Group, Microsoft Exchange was credited with a 33 percent share of the corporate e-mail market, while Lotus Notes could claim 21 percent.
IBM discounts this market report saying it misses the important Lotus advantage which is the market for complex collaborative applications. Ever since Exchange has moved into the Notes neighborhood, IBM has tended to emphasize the total number of seats and the collaborative tie-ins that it offers, while Microsoft prefers a measuring stick based on the total number of installations.
As it trumpets the upcoming release of Notes/Domino 8, IBM is quick to point out that this is the first Notes release that is built on an Eclipse-based framework. The importance of that comes to bear because developers and ISVs will be able to create Notes applications that link multiple systems and create enterprise “mash-ups” that were previously beyond reach. One example might be a Domino-based sales application linked to a human resources system running on another platform. A developer could do this on a single screen.
Even if you have had a difficult time finding good things to say about Lotus Notes, you have to credit IBM Lotus with greatly improving its integration package. Compatibility issues will be diminished for end users who are up against the wall trying to integrate enterprise data and applications. And independent software vendors will enjoy this benefit as well.
Another white hat-black hat distinction that is appropriate relates to running existing Lotus Notes applications, without modification, in the new version of Lotus Notes and Domino. N/D 8 avoids the labels of “rip-and-replace upgrade” and “forced migration.” Although IBM points out there is no need to purchase new hardware or upgrade the operating system, those changes often go hand-in-hand with a major software upgrade.
There has also been noteworthy e-mail enhancements provide views of recently sent emails and chats and the capability to quickly recall e-mail messages after they have been sent by mistake. There’s no need to go into detail about the value of that feature, is there?