Lotus executives used the opening of the annual Lotusphere conference to assure users that the company is firmly committed to its Notes and Domino platform and highlighted the pledge by introducing client software.
"Competitors will tell you that we will walk away from Notes and Domino," said Ambuj Goyal, general manager of Lotus Software. "Let me tell you, categorically, that nothing could be farther from the truth."
Later at a press conference, Larry Bowden, vice president of portal technology at IBM Corp., said Notes and Domino support "would continue into the future with version 7, 8 - and there will be more."
IBM is in the second year of a three-year plan to invest US$1 billion in Lotus.
The loudest cheer from otherwise sedate keynote attendees arose when Mike Rhodin, vice president of development and technical support, said that Notes applications would run within IBM's new Workplace Client Technology without any modification.
"It's all the power of Notes plus all the extensibility of the new client," Rhodin said.
The IBM Workplace Client Technology, expected to ship before July 1, is a "rich client" in that it is browser-based software that includes a small database to support offline use of data. The Java client, developed on the open-source Eclipse framework, will be used as the front-end for the next release of Lotus Workplace products expected this year.
Goyal says the client completes the Workplace lineup, which IBM/Lotus introduced at Lotusphere 2003. In the past year, the company has delivered a set of server components, including Workplace Messaging.
"We will bring Notes and Domino forward. We will do this by embedding open standards in Domino and by taking Notes and Domino to Workplace and On Demand technology," added Goyal, who then took a jab at Microsoft. "Do you want to base your future on open technology or proprietary? It is a strategic decision."
Goyal went on to say the Notes client itself would evolve and mentioned several times that there would be no "rip and replace" for Notes/Domino users.
"We will extend the reach of Notes. We will embed Eclipse and Web services so Notes can consume applications from Domino or other applications," he said, noting that the change would come by the 8.0 version, which is likely to ship next year.
"The Lotusphere audience has a lot of business investment in Domino, and they saw today that they won't have to redo that, and that is good," says Mike Gotta, an analyst with Meta Group. But he also noted, now that IBM/Lotus has made assurances about the evolution of infrastructure, it has to get busy showing how business applications are built and administered, including those that incorporate workflow, process modeling and systems management.
As part of the keynote, IBM/Lotus previewed its Workplace Builder tool, a rapid application development tool for WebSphere Studio, similar to the Domino Designer tool, but based on J2EE and simple enough for line-of-business managers to assemble components into a business process. The tool uses a series of templates that can be tweaked by adjusting a range of parameters, such as those for role-based access.
IBM/Lotus said it would ship Notes and Domino 6.5.1 before the end of March and would align Domino and the new Workplace components on the same release cycle so users can more easily integrate both technologies.
Also introduced was the IBM Solution for On Demand Workplace, an integrated bundle of software that relies on J2EE and a rational database and looks similar to the monolithic "stack" of services, such as security and collaboration, contained within Domino. The bundle will be priced starting at US$400.
Goyal said the roadmap for Notes/Domino, Lotus Workplace and WebSphere Portal will take users to the same place: organizational productivity.
Later Rhodin explained that the term refers to the ability to put together the right framework and tools to build business applications that can cross corporate and organizational boundaries.