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Lotus updates its iNotes strategy

With most of the hubbub surrounding the beta release of Notes and Domino 6 involving Java Server Pages, Lotus Software's iNotes Web Access product has not received as much publicity. The browser-based client, which caused discord between Lotus and Microsoft not long ago, compliments Domino server and is emerging as a viable alternative to Notes. SearchDomino recently spoke with Jason Dumont, senior manager for client strategy and iNotes Web Access for Lotus Software, about where iNotes is today and the changes coming with Domino 6.

Bring us up to date. What version of iNotes is shipping now and what does it offer?
The most current version is 5.09a. When there's a new release of Domino, there will now be an iNotes Web Access component to it. It was first released for Domino 5.08 in late June of 2001, and it had a limited client set in terms of platforms and browsers. We released 5.09 in November 2001, and we included support for personal groups and a new feature called automatic name solutions. Before this, every time you hit a keystroke typing a name, you had to hit the server to generate a match. It generated a lot of network traffic and that hurts performance. Now, when you type a name in any of the name fields, you'll see a little green checkmark and head icon to the left, and when the user clicks on that, that's when it'll go to the server to resolve the names.

In 5.08, we had an ActiveX component that allowed us to do file attachments and allowed us to do drag and drop as well. Some companies don't like using ActiveX, so we created a DHTML rollback in 5.09. If we sense ActiveX isn't allowed on a particular machine, we'll revert to our DHTML routine so users can still attach and detach files.

A war of words
Microsoft and Lotus have not always seen eye to eye on iNotes.
>>CLICK here for the story
When is the next release coming and what features will it have?
The next release is 5.010 and that's coming later this year. The majority of our efforts are focusing on Domino 6. Some things, like support for Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, we'd hoped to do already, but there was a progression in the IE 6 code that was causing some problems, and [Microsoft] just delivered a fix, and we also developed a code-around. But as part of any main release there are continued quality improvements.

When we now turn to iNotes Web Access 6, some major things we're working on with that include support for Netscape browsers. We had initially hoped to have support for that going back two years, but since many of the technologies we leverage, things like DHTML and XML, aren't supported in that browser, we had to rearchitect the product to get it to work on the Netscape platform, and perform on a statistically acceptable level. It was more work then we were able to do and deliver previously.

Some other things we're doing (include) support for Linux servers and, later on in the code stream, support for HP-UX. And we're building support for a whole laundry list of features like local archiving support, drag and drop capability from the inbox, giving the administrator the ability to lock down the welcome page -- if you want to have a standard page for all your users so an end user can't change it -- online calendar editing, slight UE enhancements. What's the latest with Domino Off Line Services (DOLS)? On the replication front, what's available these days for the end user?
You have what is the Lotus iNotes synch manager. For folks who are familiar with the R5 client, it's the same set of functionality that the client replicator gives you. Once you've got the code on the client, you can use it for any Web-based Domino client you want. You get many of the things you see in the Notes client. You can do it daily, weekly, ad-hoc, or with specific start times. You've got the ability to limit the overall size of the local subscript, or just give me a subset of my data, like the last 90 days, and send pending mail prior to shutdown. What are the latest versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape that iNotes supports?
Version 5.09a supports IE 5.0 with Service Pack 1 and above. Version 5.10 adds IE 6 support to that. In version 6, everything will be supported with the added ability to use Win32 Netscape 4.7 clients. From an administrator's perspective, what is Lotus doing to make iNotes installation as simple as possible?
That was one of our key design criteria from the beginning. We wanted to ensure that this was allowing admins to leverage their existing investments. In terms of converting existing users using just Notes or converting to iNotes full time or having dual client access, the only thing you need to do for exiting users is run the convert utility on the server. You can do that one time for all your users; you load the convert task, specify the mail fields you want to convert, specify the template currently being used, and the new template you want to start using. Does iNotes support any other e-mail systems?
Basically you just need a Domino server, R5 or later. If you want to use a dual client model, where a user may use Notes just when they're in the office, your Notes client just needs to be an R5 client -- it doesn't need to be 5.08 -- and once you're set up like that, you want to make sure you're using the iNotes mail template, and you have an HTTP password for Internet access. Then you're in business. What are the benefits of using iNotes if you have Outlook clients?
That, I think, is a different product. There's iNotes Web Access, and another product called Web Access for Microsoft Outlook. With that, you can use the Outlook client on the backend. Is there a Web services component to iNotes?
Not at this point, but I will say many of the things you see in iNotes Web Access today we're going to componentize so users can embed them into their own applications. We've put the code to recreate that up on Notes.net. What's the latest on the security front for iNotes?
Anytime you look at any Internet related solution, it's always going to be on the table. Most corporations don't want to open their mail services to the world unless the info is safe. What we did was leveraged all the things we get about of the box by being another application on the Domino server, but we included basic authentication, HTTP passwords, and session identification where one of the benefits is an idol timeout; If I walk away from a kiosk and forget to log off, the admin can set up an auto logoff after 10 minutes. What does Lotus Professional Services offer as far as iNotes goes?
One of the most important things is the ability to assist customers in template customizations. Per the normal support policy, customized templates are not supported. It can't be created in the base template. In developing iNotes Web Access, we didn't use Domino Designer to create our template. We used a lot of Javascript, one time interpreted languages. You need to have a sense of how the template was built to safely customize without breaking some core functionality. We released some information on what kinds of customizations customers can make without jeopardizing the design of the template. Beyond that, we recommend customers engage Lotus Professional Services. Any idea how many customers aren't doing in-house deployment and are instead using an ASP for iNotes?
I couldn't give you a specific number, but I could tell you based on my own experience, and the myriad of customers I've spoken to, the majority are hosting them in house, but we have done work with a couple of ASPs that are also offering iNotes Web Access as a service to their clients. Most of the larger enterprises are hosting it in-house, and we've designed it in a way that they can leverage their existing infrastructures. The ASPs are mostly offering it to SMBs that don't have the Domino infrastructure in place, or don't have the expertise to deliver it.

INotes Web Access for use with only e-mail is sold at a volume price of $48.65 per seat, and iNotes for use with e-mail and applications is sold at a volume price of $75.23. Lotus has not yet determined pricing for iNotes for Notes and Domino 6.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

CLICK to pre-register for our April 17 Webcast with Jason Dumont on "Techniques to Successfully Deploy iNotes Web Access."

CLICK for our Best Web Links on iNotes

CLICK for a Online Event transcript: iNotes, the next generation Web client

CLICK for other articles by Eric B. Parizo

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