Lotus executives last week offered reassurance to corporate users that they remain firmly committed to the future of Notes client and Domino server products, despite persistent rumors that IBM's Workplace collaboration technology might largely replace them.
In fact, over the next few releases of Notes and Domino, Lotus will strengthen the links between Notes/Domino and Workplace collaboration technologies by embedding a range of Workplace components such as instant messaging into the Notes client. Over time, the two products will also share common mail portlets, including significantly improved mobile support.
Other Workplace client technologies to be integrated into Notes 7 include integrated menus and bookmarks, drag and drop capabilities, status bar integration, and Notes URL support.
"We are on a 12- to 14-month delivery schedule for Notes and Domino, so that means Notes 7.0 is expected to ship around the second quarter next year. So there will be (versions of) Domino 8, 9, and 10," said Ken Bisconti, vice president in charge of Portal Products at Lotus.
Bisconti said that some of the functionality to be delivered by year's end in its Notes client overlaps with what Microsoft has promised for its long anticipated Longhorn client, scheduled for sometime in 2006. However, late last month Microsoft announced it would be yanking out a key piece of that operating system, the WinFS storage subsystem. But Lotus plans to bundle the Cloudscape database with the Workplace client.
IBM officials have said they plan to update the existing 2.1 version of Workplace to 2.5 by the end of this year.
Lotus plans to deliver a third beta of Notes 7.0 "over the next month or so," Bisconti said, with the finished product due in the first half of next year. The completed version will feature Lotus instant messaging and Web conferencing, the IBM Lotus Domino Document Manager, and a number of Lotus Workplace products. Notes/Domino 7.5 is expected in the second half of 2006, with Notes 8.0 due in late 2007, he said.
Lotus remains committed to delivering quarterly updates to Notes/Domino, which will largely consist of fixes but sometimes may include incremental feature improvements. The next update to Notes 6.5.3, also due in the next month, will include integrated calendaring and scheduling functions, for instance.
"It's nice to get this sort of direction about the future (of Notes and Domino products) since we have a pretty big investment in both," said John Charles, a network administrator at a large financial services company in Chicago. "I have to say the Workplace stuff has had us thinking about how they would evolve that product's features relative to Notes."
Some analysts agree Lotus and IBM are beginning to address the need to better articulate the development path of Notes/Domino and Workplace.
"There are some good things in both that will be shared back and forth, and this sounds like more examples of that," said Mark Levitt, a research vice president with IDC who focuses on collaborative computing. "I think they have recognized over the past year they were not doing a good job of explaining to users what to expect, so a lot of people were getting worried."