IBM/Lotus is stepping up efforts to reassure users that its Notes/Domino collaboration platform isn't on the chopping block and will survive well into the future.
The company says it will release Notes 7.0 by mid-2005 and that customers will find a natural integration between Notes/Domino and Lotus Workplace, a collection of collaborative components that run on WebSphere, the DB2 database and Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition (J2EE).
Lotus also says the 2.5 release of its Workplace client, which is due to ship later this year, will include native access to Notes applications. For application development, the company says it will preview a development model and tool set that align with existing development tools familiar to Notes/Domino developers.
"The path to Workplace for Notes/Domino customers is to adopt the successive version updates in the Notes/Domino road map," says Ken Bisconti, vice president for Lotus Workplace products. He says the road map will include Notes 8, 9 and 10. "Customers can expect that the Workplace technologies will be incorporated into the Notes/Domino road map."
For example, the first support of IBM DB2 as an optional data store for Notes/Domino comes in Version 7.0, and lets users store Domino data and applications in the database. But Bisconti was quick to note Domino's native NSF data store will exist as long as Notes/Domino does.
The database option also gives Lotus an edge on rival Microsoft, which earlier this year again delayed plans for a database back-end for a future version of Exchange.
Also in 7.0, Lotus is further integrating Workplace component technologies such as instant messaging, which was first integrated with e-mail in Notes 6.5., but in 7.0 supports calendaring and scheduling.
Lotus said earlier this year that Notes 8 would become a client-side component that runs within the larger Workplace framework.
"If you are sitting in a Notes environment, the message is comforting and clear about what you should do," says David Marshak, an analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group.
The difficult part is where users should jump into Workplace, Marshak says.
"If I have Domino, how do I add to it? Do I use components? Those individual decisions are still difficult," he says.
Lotus is hoping to refine its Notes evolution message given customer anxiety over Workplace and in light of discouraging market data. A report earlier this year by the Radicati Group predicts that over the next four years Lotus will lose market share as the Workplace platform is under development. Radicati says Lotus' market share will fall from 24 percent to 17 percent in 2008, while Microsoft's will grow from 31 percent to 33 percent.