Lotus' Notes/Domino beta: User feedback to be included in RNext

Reflecting a shift in its product development philosophy, IBM Corp.'s Lotus Development Corp. is inviting early public participation in its rigorous beta-testing process for the next release of Lotus Notes, Domino, and Domino Designer, all code-named Rnext.

Lotus plans to incorporate customer feedback into the development of Rnext to shake down bugs and build a quality offering, company officials said last week.

"In previous betas, a lot of the features were already locked in at this point. This [time] we are bringing user feedback in early in the game to give us the ability to modify the features based on that response," said Amy Reuse Caton, Notes brand manager at Lotus in Cambridge, Mass.

The extensive testing program is now in its third leg, after being tested internally at Lotus and in private beta with select business partners and customers.

Rnext design improvements focus on enhanced usability, mobility, application development, and deployment, Reuse Caton said. Expected features, some of which were displayed at the company's Lotusphere user conference in January, include selective replication, improved administration for roaming users, and a multitasking function that allows users to work within Notes during replication.

According to one analyst, due to problems customers experienced upgrading from Notes Release 4 to Release 5, Lotus intends to iron out any bugs early to avoid migration hassles.

"Lotus has put in new testing procedures and extended the beta process earlier than they normally would. They want customers to put the product through its paces and find bugs earlier and more exhaustively than they did in the past so they can come out with a cleaner, more bug-free release when it ships," said Dave Nelson, senior analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.

Although Rnext features appear compelling enough to prompt an upgrade, feedback from the public beta will figure prominently into deployment decisions, according to one Notes user who glimpsed the Rnext preview at Lotusphere.

"We were pretty fast to move from [Release] 4.6 to [Release] 5, so we will probably be fast to move to Rnext; but it depends on what we read from the beta testers. If it is a pretty seamless integration, we will be very interested," said Bob McCollough, associate analyst of IT at Lincoln Electric System, an electric utility in Lincoln, Neb.

"I saw some neat-looking tools in Rnext at Lotusphere in January. We will be interested in grabbing and using those features as soon as possible, but only if it is a good new version," McCollough said. He commended Rnext's added capability for dragging and dropping bookmarks and design elements among databases.

Revving up for Rnext

The forthcoming version of Lotus Notes will include several notable improvements.

* Replication filtering for replicating selective documents.

* Multitasking for working within Notes during replication.

* Ability to drag and drop file attachments and calendar entries.

* Ability to strip a file attachment from a message reply.

* Enhanced administration for roaming users and multiple users on desktops.

* One-click access to applications and Web browser.

* Improved setup and customization of welcome pages.

(Source: Lotus Development).

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