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At long last, Notes/Domino 6 debuts

Lotus has released Notes and Domino 6, which it says "isn't about sexy user interfaces" but is notable for its more than 1,000 enhancements to the Notes client and the bundling of Domino with a scaled-back version of WebSphere.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- It's been more than three years in the making, but IBM's Lotus Software has finally released its Notes and Domino 6 (ND6) e-mail and collaboration platform, along with updated versions of its Sametime, QuickPlace and LearningSpace software products.

At a press conference, general manager Al Zollar said that Lotus's updated software portfolio lowers customers' total cost of ownership (TCO) for messaging and collaborative applications and is "laser-focused" on increasing human productivity because "most of an organization's knowledge is captured between the ears."

Lotus hasn't issued a feature release of Notes and Domino since March 1999. It has high hopes that more than 1,000 enhancements to the Notes client and the bundling of Domino with a scaled-back version of WebSphere, among other improvements, will re-arm it in its battle with Microsoft for messaging supremacy.

Though the press conference held few surprises, Zollar announced that IBM will invest more than a billion dollars over the next three years in efforts to improve the usability and TCO of Lotus's products, most notably the next feature release of Notes and Domino, code-named ND6+X, which is expected within the next 12 to 18 months.

During a demonstration of Notes and Domino 6, Lotus product managers highlighted a few of the improvements to Notes, such as inbox management capabilities and message color-coding, a feature called SwiftFile that automates e-mail sorting, and a meeting scheduler that not only displays attendees' availability but also suggests the best possible times meetings can take place.

Domino's new bells and whistles include a new administrator tool called the Tivoli Analyzer for Domino. In addition to providing an admin with a graphic display of system status such as Notes transactions and available database disk space, it offers an automated resource balancing option that determines how disk space could be optimized among multiple servers and a one-click method of carrying out such recommendations.

Other Domino 6 features include new granularity in the establishment of rules and policies like mail space quotas and desktop settings, centrally managed e-mail archiving and journaling, and enhanced spam control.

"This stuff isn't about sexy user interfaces," said Lotus vice president Scott Cooper. "These are all the things that happen in the back room and drive down costs for customers."

Additionally, Lotus said last week that it would provide ND6 customers with a free but restricted version of WebSphere Application Server Version 5 in order to ease Domino developers' worries regarding Lotus's Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) development program. Earlier this year, Lotus abandoned plans to build an in-house J2EE development engine into Domino 6.

Lotus has priced the Domino 6 Mail Server at $894 per server, while the Domino 6 Application Server goes for $2,308 per server. Both versions require customers to purchase user licenses for either Notes 6 or iNotes 6 Web access, which are listed at $70.08 and $48.65 per client license. The Domino 6 Utility Server costs $11,750 and doesn't require client licenses because it is intended to be used for application development purposes.

Though Lotus announced the release of ND6 on Tuesday, it actually released the products to the public on Monday, thereby keeping the promise it made at Lotusphere to make ND6 available to the public before the end of the third quarter.

Sametime, QuickPlace and e-learning

Also on Tuesday, Lotus officially released Sametime 3, its latest corporate instant messaging software; QuickPlace 3, an updated edition of its online meeting and collaboration product; and LearningSpace Virtual Classroom, a retooled e-learning offering that won't actually be available until Oct. 14.

Perhaps the most notable addition to Sametime is the IM Gateway, a feature that allows one company to securely interoperate with another company's IM system based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) request response protocol. Other highlights include new developer tool kits to embed online awareness, instant messaging into other applications and support for mobile workers using PDAs and cell phones.

The latest version of QuickPlace sports Sametime's online status/presence awareness capabilities, embedded document editing, private messaging and file sharing without leaving the application, and team calendaring that integrates with personal Notes and Domino calendars.

The LearningSpace Virtual Classroom is an online environment that allows courses to be created and taught in the same application. Using the application, which borrows elements from Sametime and QuickPlace, instructors can develop class materials and outlines, present material to students, track attendance, send feedback to students and certify the completion of courses.


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