Today, IBM Lotus officially announced Notes and Domino 6.5 and offered new incentives for customers to upgrade.
Companies currently paying Notes maintenance fees that make the move to 6.5 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 will receive 20 seats of WebSphere Portal Express and 20 seats of Lotus Instant Messaging for free. Executives said the offer is designed to help organizations benefit from some of the new features added in the latest release, to be available for download by Sept. 30.
"This shows people the possibilities," said Tim Kounadis, IBM Lotus senior product marketing manager. "The wall that was there between Lotus Instant Messaging and Notes has completely collapsed."
Notes and Domino 6.5 integrates tightly with Lotus Instant Messaging (formerly called Sametime), giving users the ability to IM colleagues, manage their buddy lists or just see who is online from within the Notes client. Executives hope that experimenting with WebSphere Portal will allow shops to see how Notes and Domino applications look when accessed through the gateway.
In 6.5, IBM Lotus also extends new spam controls to the Notes client. For instance, users can now block mail by sender or use dialog boxes to specify how to treat mail that comes from a particular sender or domain that contains certain words in subject lines. On the server side, ND 6 was the first version of Domino to add blacklist controls.
IBM Lotus is also stressing new platform support as a reason for upgrading. Notes and Domino 6.5 supports the Linux-based Mozilla browser, as well as shops running Linux on an IBM zSeries. The ND 6.5 Web-access client is now on par with the Notes client.
Kounadis said that ND 6.5 will play a pivotal role in the IBM Lotus Workplace product line, the company's initiative to deliver collaborative capabilities in a modular manner by allowing companies to easily turn features on or off. The new interface in 6.5 gives users a single entry point to various messaging components, including personal or team information, IM and search.
Notes shops running 4.6 or higher can move directly to ND 6.5. Those already on ND 6 can benefit from the Smart Upgrade feature that automates client-side updates without administrators' having to visit individual desktops.
Kounadis couldn't provide specific figures for the number of companies that have already moved to ND 6 but said customers are migrating six times faster than they moved to R5.
Meta Group senior vice president Matt Cain called ND 6.5 "a minor upgrade" but said it "offers some hints about the way IBM sees its Workplace strategy evolving."
Specifically, Cain thinks users will notice commonalities in the Notes and WebSphere Portal interfaces, as IBM adds greater synergies between the two platforms. He also said the new version does a good job helping users stem the tide of unwanted e-mails on the client side.
The release of ND 6.5 is in line with IBM Lotus' pledge to stick to a 12- to 18-month release cycle for Notes. The last major release -- ND 6 -- came out in October 2002. It also comes as Microsoft Corp. is upping the collaboration ante, planning to ship next month its long-anticipated Office Live Communications Server with embedded IM capabilities within its Office suite.
"Once that server is out, the race will be on to capture hearts and minds for instant messaging," Cain said. "IBM is going to be under some pressure with IM to sell seats. In fairness to IBM, though, it has been in this business for some time."
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