With Notes/Domino 7.0 in the final stages of its beta, executives at the IBM Lotus Technical Forum 2005 in Hannover, Germany, detailed the direction of future releases of the Notes client at the Deutsche Notes User Group (DNUG) Conference on Tuesday.
IBM refers to the new release by its code name, Hannover (in honor of the venerable trade show), although observers say that IBM is talking about the 8.0 version of Notes. Either way, the next major release of Notes will incorporate much of the functionality of IBM's Workplace rich client, giving it a focus on activity-centric computing and the expanded use of contextual collaboration, Ken Bisconti, IBM Lotus vice president of Workplace, portal and collaboration products, told SearchDomino.com. The new release, he said, will simplify and enhance the Notes user experience by improving e-mail, calendar and contact management capabilities.
"We see far too many end users trapped in the confines of e-mail-centric and inbox-centric work methods," Bisconti said. "The Hannover release will provide the end user with the opportunity to create, store and manage many types of documents and collaboration, from e-mail threads to chat logs to meeting notices to documents." He added, "Information will be stored around a project or an activity, which is more in line with the way we see people working."
According to Erica Rugullies, senior analyst with Forrester Research, Inc., "Looking for information based on activity, rather than by type of information, i.e., e-mail, file or person's contact record, represents a significant departure from the way it's been done in the past, and it's a way for IBM to differentiate Lotus Notes from the competition."
Notes has often been criticized for its somewhat staid user interface. According to IBM's Bisconti, in creating Hannover, IBM paid attention "to not just the user interface, but the user experience."
"Through improvements such as contextual collaboration and support for composite apps, we've gone above and beyond simple UI enhancement," he said.
Furthermore, he said, that user experience is "very configurable." For the most part, a modern Notes user, using Release 6.5 or 7.0, is already familiar with some of the concepts that are part of Hannover. "If an organization wants to minimize end user training, they can gradually deploy the product's features. Our goal is to maintain the existing Notes end user skill set, but also give those users dramatic new capabilities," he said.
Also among those new capabilities is increased presence awareness. "Today, Notes/Domino users only get presence awareness through their e-mail inbox," said Rugullies. "In 7.0, that will be extended through calendaring. But in Hannover, presence awareness and all these collaboration capabilities will exist anywhere in client."
Mid-September is the latest official release date for 7.0, which also contains more enhancements for the Domino server. While no specific timeframe had been established in terms of the future Hannover release, Bisconti told SearchDomino, "In the past we have established a cadence for Notes/Domino releases of 14 to 16 months, and we expect we're going to remain true to that cadence." If so, users could expect to be working with Hannover in the late fall or early winter of 2006.
With Hannover, Notes as a development platform will support composite applications. Composite applications refer to a relatively new class of applications that are based on open standards and built through the combination of elements and components from sources such as existing Notes apps as well as other programming environments, such as the Eclipse framework, Java, J2EE and .NET components.
"Eclipse has become very popular in Java and J2EE-centric communities, with 20 million downloads of the Eclipse toolkit," Bisconti noted. "Notes has long been recognized as a uniquely powerful application platform, but sometimes a closed one. This is why Eclipse is such an attractive environment to extend Notes to even more application frameworks."
According to Forrester's Rugullies, "This will help Notes developers create applications that are more flexible and more easily changed than traditional applications. The bottom line is, if Notes is successful as a composite app client, its value increases many fold, because it will work not just with Domino applications but for all backends. That's IBM's goal. Whether it comes to fruition, remains to be seen."
Hannover will give the developer a greatly enhanced runtime environment, Bisconti said. Developers will be able to support existing Notes applications while extending the capabilities of those applications with contextual collaboration, Web services and new document management capabilities. Hannover also marks the introduction of components such as RSS feed service.