Lotus Development Corp. has announced it will extend support for Notes/Domino R4.6 through January, 2003.
The move follows months of uncertainty about when support for R4.6 would finally end. Last year the company said it would end support for R4.6 early this year.
Customers not ready to migrate to version R5 sent up howls of protest and the deadline was extended to early this year, then again to early 2002. In the latest announcement, Lotus said it will not only extend support for another year and but provide engineering support for the product through until January and continue phone support for an additional year.
The news may be welcomed companies planning to reduce short-term information technology outlays. Many Domino and Notes administrators may be pleased as well. Some have said they had hoped to bypass R5 in favor of its successor, code-named Rnext. Many analysts have said while R5's server-side performance boosts, Rnext promises to add greater client-side capabilities, like improved file management and expanded user options for e-mail.
R4.6 users have shown greater resistance to R5 than Lotus had anticipated. While server-side installations of R5 have reached 70%, nearly half of all Notes/Domino clients worldwide still use R4.6, the company said.
"What we heard from administrators at Lotusphere Orlando 2001 is that the cost and time associated with migration was the number one issue behind their staying with R4.6," said Ed Brill, director of product marketing for Notes and iNotes at Lotus.
And while the R5 upgrade is free to Notes/Domino customers with maintenance contracts, its markedly updated interface saddles administrators with additional training costs.
"I've seen a lot of Lotus customers not wanting to make the move to R5," said Michael Lazar, a principal Certified Lotus Professional for Domino administration, R4 and R5, and owner of Illini Consulting Inc.. "They don't need the functionality R5 affords them, so they'd rather wait for Rnext."
The wait for Rnext may be another reason Lotus is extending support for R4.6 for another year. A preview release of Rnext is currently making the rounds among Lotus' business partners. But Lotus' Brill cast doubt on the developer's June, 2001 target date for a beta version of the product. And while a final version of is due sometime in 2002, an actual release date for Rnext remains uncertain.
Brill also sought to assure R4.6 diehards, saying that they will be able to upgrade directly to Rnext.
"Aalthough the upgrade path for R5 users will likely be a lot smoother," he said.
Lotus' change of heart toward R4.6 comes at a another difficult moment in the history of R5. "R5 got off to an unusual start at the time, when people were more worried about the end of the world than they were about upgrading their version of Notes," said Gartner analyst Maureen Grey, referring to R5's release, at the height of the Y2K crisis.
Now the economy is at a low point, and enterprises are looking to cut costs.
"The fear of recession is causing a lot of people to reevaluate their financial situations," Grey said.
Lotus, meanwhile, says it will decide in January 2003 whether it will extend support for R4.6 still further.
"By then R4.6 will have been out for five years," Grey said. "And five years is very a long time to have supported one version of a product."
MORE INFORMATION ON THIS TOPIC:R.4.6 users discuss the pain of migration in this searchDomino article: The pain Microsoft?s strategy to lure reluctant R5 users is discussed in this eWEEK article: Microsoft