In a run up to the Lotusphere conference in January, where more details on the status of Workplace-Domino integration will be forthcoming, IBM today announced that at least 100 independent software vendors (ISVs) have built applications to run on its new Workplace platform. The company also launched an online resource center for developers to access tools to create Workplace apps.
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The Workplace platform combines WebSphere J2EE portal technology with a service-oriented architecture, and client-side support for browser, thick Java and light mobile nodes. IBM's Lotus division is marketing the product.
Earlier this month, Ambuj Goyal, general manager for IBM's Lotus and WebSphere portal efforts, described Workplace as an initiative from the IBM Software Group "to focus on the front end of computing."
"It has a fundamental point of view about how the front end of computing is delivered," he said. "It is a way to rethink and rationalize IT infrastructure." Goyal described the Workplace model as a "role-based" model that feeds server-side applications to workers based on the tasks they must fulfill.
In IBM circles, Workplace is often described as a "game-changer." But IBM folks usually refuse to claim desktop productivity software leader Microsoft as the target of this initiative. Some viewers see enterprise resource planning leader SAP AG as a potential target.
Clearly, as IBM continues to try to broaden its software's appeal to influential ISVs, Workplace is part of the push. IBM business partners endorsing Workplace include Siebel Systems Inc., PeopleSoft Inc., J.D. Edwards, MicroStrategy, Hyperion Solutions Corp., Genius Inside, DYS Analytics Inc. and others. Said Goyal: "With Workplace, you can take an application and integrate it into role-based Workplace applications. Partners are creating portlets."
Earlier this month, IBM announced quick-start Workplace packages, as well as Workplace apps tailored for special industries. The company has indicated that the client-side of its large Lotus Notes and Domino infrastructure software line -- now at rev 6.X.X, with an upcoming 7.0 version now in beta -- will merge with Workplace client technology in the Notes/Domino 8.0 release.
To work in an IBM Workplace environment, developers need to learn J2EE techniques, portlet programming, Eclipse plug-in development and Web services. Domino developers are expected to test out Notes/Domino 7.0 Web Services capabilities in the months ahead.
"I see Workplace as a good and right step for IBM to make," said Andrew Wolff, vice president of products, DYS Analytics. "They do need to move the underlying base. People need more standards support, and a more Web-centric model."
The move to Workplace can be seen in earlier Domino evolution, Wolff indicated.
He said: "You already have Java strewn all through the Notes 6 client now." He added that departmental Notes application developers have already begun to work more closely with Java application server development counterparts.
Because Workplace does not fit neatly into an established software category, understanding it can be challenging to non-Notes/Domino shops and Notes/Domino devotees alike. And IBM Lotus may be challenged to succeed on the marketing front. Said Meta Group analyst Mike Gotta: "Microsoft has its information worker theme. SAP has a collaboration and process theme. Now, IBM has the 'Workplace theme.'"
But, Gotta said, the move has merit. "There is a fuzzy front end of computing, and we as an industry don't do a very good job addressing it. We've invested a lot of money in desktops."
What both IBM and Microsoft are trying to do, Gotta said, is "make people think about worker productivity."