IBM Adds iPhone Support to Lotus Notes Traveler
May 19, 2009 Alex Woodie
IBM last week unveiled the beta of Lotus Notes Traveler 8.5.1, a new release of the push e-mail offering for mobile smart phones. With version 8.5.1, IBM is offering support for the Apple iPhone, via Microsoft ExchangeServer’s ActiveSync protocol. This is good news for mobile professionals who want faster access to their Lotus Notes mail, calendar, and contacts from iPhones.
Lotus Notes Traveler was unveiled by IBM last year to provide more mobile options for Lotus Notes users. Traveler fills the gap between the full Notes client, which can be run on laptops, and the ultralight iNotes client, which runs as a Web client in the device’s browser. iNotes gained iPhone support last fall.
Notes Traveler offers one crucial advantage over iNotes: the so-called “push e-mail” capabilities.
With push e-mail, the mail client is continually receiving e-mail and updates as soon as they hit the mail server, instead of requiring the mobile device to continually poll the server for updates. Customers with “pull e-mail” clients need to continually tell the device to look for new e-mail. Additionally, due to the requirement to establish a session handshake between the “pull e-mail” client and the server, pull e-mail is more susceptible to server timeouts and network congestion. Push e-mail also works better when the client is often disconnected from the network.
Now, with Traveler 8.5.1, customers that use the Traveler client on iPhones will be able to tap into that push e-mail capability, according to IBM. This puts Traveler’s iPhone e-mail capabilities on par with RIM‘s Blackberry e-mail software, which uses push e-mail technology. (Traveler already delivered push-email capabilities for Nokia S60 phones and phones running Windows Mobile versions 5, 6, and 6.1.)
On first glance, it’s somewhat curious that IBM went about delivering push e-mail support in iPhone by adding support for Microsoft Exchange Server’s ActiveSync functionality. Exchange Server is, of course, the biggest competitor to Lotus Notes and Domino, and the biggest threat to its continued existence.
However, it appears that IBM chose this route as a result of a decision Apple made last year to license the ActiveSync technology, which is now embedded into every iPhone. It appears this is just a protocol issue, and does not require Notes users to license full copies of Exchange Server to get the iPhone capability, which would be an unmitigated disaster for IBM.
Notes customers are jumping up and down with excitement and unbridled enthusiasm at the chance to use the new push e-mail capability with their iPhones. “I look forward to Exchange ActiveSync support because it will allow me to use my iPhone for (Notes) contacts and calendar without having to be on-line,” professor Ludwig Nastansky of the University of Padeborn in Germany said in an IBM press release.
The support for Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology and the capability it brings for the iPhone (which is only available from AT&T) demonstrates IBM’s commitment to its customers, according to Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM’s vice president of messaging and collaboration.
“Providing Exchange ActiveSync support via the Lotus Notes Traveler software is part of IBM’s pledge to provide enterprises the choice and flexibility to select the mobile devices and carriers that best suit their needs,” Cavanaugh said in a press release.
IBM did not say when it expects Traveler 7.5.1 to be generally available. In the meantime, interested users will soon be able to access the beta at IBM’s greenhouse.lotus.com Web site.