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Fontaine on messaging met with Arthur Fontaine at Lotusphere, and the topic was Notes/Domino and its strategic position versus competitive Microsoft messaging products. met with Arthur Fontaine at Lotusphere, and the topic was Notes/Domino and its strategic position versus competitive Microsoft messaging products.

Also discussed: new tools for Domino developers. Include in this both Lotus Domino Designer, the flagship Domino development tool that has just been updated, and Lotus Workplace Designer, a "Domino-Designer-like" tool that is seen as a step toward making IBM's new Workplace collaborative platform successful.

Fontaine is a senior offering manager at IBM Lotus in Cambridge, Mass. He focuses on e-mail and collaboration infrastructures. Before coming to Lotus, he worked as a Lotus Business Partner, developing some of the first Web applications based on Notes and Domino.

What is up in the contest of messaging platforms? Apparently, IBM Lotus has made a comeback. Fontaine points to steps IBM Lotus took to be more competitive in recent years as now paying dividends.

"In 2003, we set up a swat team," he said, and, since that time, "we have seen solid growth in [user] seats." The swat team's role was to vigorously defend big Notes placements that were being courted by Microsoft. IBM estimates Lotus Notes seat count at 118 million.

"We are winning six of seven [competitive] engagements," Fontaine claimed.

"Last year we competed successfully against Exchange. We gained share last year," said Fontaine, who like others, now awaits IDC research numbers that could bear out this prognostication.

What Lotus missteps contributed to Microsoft's ascent in this field? Among issues Fontaine cites is the fact that R5 was "in the market a little too long." Lessons IBM Lotus has taken from that experience have led the company to forgo adding features to maintenance releases, while ensuring that Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino Designer are released in synch.

Version 6 was a major step forward in the messaging competition because it allowed desktops to be "upgraded automatically over the wire," said Fontaine. Such updates are far more difficult in the Microsoft world, he asserted. He suggests that company has a different philosophy on updates. "They do a whole platform and it tends to be a much bigger thing," Fontaine said.

Domino developer capabilities will vastly expand, he noted, as important new traits have been added to Notes/Domino 7.0. These include Web services integration and DB2 relational database storage. Both are now supported in Domino Designer as well.

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