Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lotus Notes 8 brings unified collaboration to mashupable clients

IBM made two announcements Friday that should help smooth the way for bringing unifed Web 2.0-style applications to the Notes/Domino-installed enterprise.

The new Lotus Notes 8 and Lotus Domino 8 releases merge collaboration, communication and productivity features into a single desktop environment, giving users integrated access to such things as RSS feeds and search, along with email, instant messaging, presence, word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software.

At the same time, IBM announced Expeditor 6.1.1, an Eclipse-based mashups tool that forms the underpinings of Notes/Domino 8 and thereby allows mashups via managed clients to reach desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Regular readers of BriefingsDirect know that search is an emerging enterprise strategy of growing importance and that RSS feeds will provide a powerful tool for distributing and managing content and data. Combining them onto a single desktop with other Web 2.0 technologies and productivity applications is certainly a step in the best-of-all-worlds direction.

Incidentally, the means of bringing mashups to the enterprise is evolving along varying lines. IBM likes managed clients, no surprise there. But Serena Software will soon be providing an on-demand platform for mashups that's also intended for enterprise use.

It's no secret that the Lotus Notes UI has been, shall we say ... cumbersome over the years (since Notes 5?). IBM hopes to have cleared that hurdle with a new interface, featuring a sidebar that summarizes all the user's tools in one place, including the RSS feeds.

In fact, it's the new interface that's gotten the most positive feedback from customer tests, according to Ed Brill, Business Unit Executive, Worldwide Lotus Notes/Domino Sales, IBM Software Group (nice title, Ed; go for brevity, I always say). The new release has been in development for more than two years.

The addition of productivity tools, according to Brill, comes from the observation that the principal reason many users in the past have left the Notes application was to use a spreadsheet or word processing (Since, like ... 1989). With the new release, users will be able to do that without leaving Notes.

Imagine, just imagine, if SmartSuite had been natively integrated into Notes in, say, 1994. Things might have panned out a little differently. Oh, well.

One surprising outcome of the customer testing, Brill says, is the level of interest in customers wanting a Notes client for Linux. Nearly 20 percent of downloads during testing have been for Linux. Hint, hint! [How about a full virtualized desktop service based on Linux/Domino with mashups galore! Maybe some appliances along those lines. Works for me.]

Built on Eclipse, Lotus Expeditor 6.1.1, is designed to allow integrated mashups independent of the client technology. Among the key features of Expeditor are:

  • A server-managed composite platform to integrate and aggregate applications and information.
  • Integration with real-time collaboration.
  • Integration with IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory and IBM WebSphere Portal Express.
  • End-to-end government-grade mobile security.
  • The ability to transform Microsoft Visual Basic applications.
There will be those Web 2.0 purists who will smirk at the way IBM is bringing these functions to the market. But consider that enterprises do more integrated collaboration via Notes/Domino than just about any other system. And, importantly, it's a lot easier to bring Web 2.0 functionality into an existing enterprise IT icon, than to bring a Web 2.0 functionality into the enterprise all on its barely surviving greenfield start-up own.