A conservative Nixon-era economist turned Hollywood celebrity might be an unusual spokesman for a famously liberal software company located in the famously liberal city of Cambridge, Mass. But Ben Stein proved an appropriate messenger to deliver this year's theme of proven return on investment from the Lotus Software Group's collaboration products.
The IBM Corp. subsidiary kicked off its annual user conference, Lotusphere, with an appearance by Stein, currently the star of the Comedy Central cable network game show Win Ben Stein's Money. Stein extolled the virtues of Notes and Domino, especially for their ability to leverage knowledge management in the enterprise.
Ben Stein's money is exactly what customers want, Lotus CEO Al Zollar joked in his hourlong keynote speech at the conference.
Highlights of Zollar's talk included his announcements that the next version of Notes and Domino -- which have just officially been named Notes 6 and Domino 6 -- will be released by the end of September, that Java 2 Enterprise Edition has been adopted as the standard for Web services development on Lotus products and that a new services strategy will make IBM responsible for more integration support, while Lotus service professionals provide support for Lotus products only, and won't be considered a major revenue source for the software developer.
The delay in the release of Notes 6 and Domino 6 disappointed some users, like Raymond Huff, president of Trans Pacific Stores Ltd. in Lakewood, Colo. He said he has been waiting for the latest version to be released since last year and would like to start deploying it now.
When asked in an interview after the keynote whether the current economic slump had delayed the release, Zollar said no. "That had nothing to do with our decision cycle," he said.
While there are some new features in Notes 6 and Domino 6, both of which are set to be released in beta version in 30 days, most of the work was "a shifted focus to quality engineering ... [to] clean up things from R5," Zollar said.
Lotus customers have expressed displeasure with problems in the previous upgrade, from version R4 to R5. Deployment is still only 60% on the client side and possibly as much as 80% on the server side, Zollar said.
New functions in Notes 6 and Domino 6 will include an ability to work, and not just view, multiple frames within the welcome page. Lotus engineers have also promised improved compression technology to speed the download of large attachments. Users will also be able to do selective replication, based on the addresses from which they want to receive e-mail.
Much of the improvements are on the back end, however, with improved network reporting capabilities and management tools. That again is part of Lotus' push for ROI.