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Lotusphere '04: Comforting the Domino base

Some Domino shops are breathing a bit easier after IBM Lotus assured them at Lotusphere that their existing investments are safe.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- IBM Lotus kicked off its eleventh user conference with a message to its installed base that they can leverage their existing Domino environment "with no rip and replace."

Ambuj Goyal, Lotus general manager, told the roughly 4,000 Lotusphere attendees here that Domino and the company's J2EE-based Workplace product line introduced at last year's show will eventually achieve functional parity.

"Our roadmap takes you all to the same place," he said. "Applications will carry forward, skills will carry forward, investments will carry forward and, yes, software licenses will carry forward."

In fact, executives said that some existing Domino shops -- especially large businesses -- might be entitled to some Workplace products under their Notes and Domino maintenance agreements.

On the product front, the company rolled out the IBM Solution for OnDemand Workplace, packaging WebSphere Portal and all of its new Workplace technology in a bundle that will sell for $399 per user.

It also demonstrated Workplace 2.0, slated for a second-quarter release. The latest version will give organizations the ability to move off the current browser-based interface and use a rich desktop client based on Java open-standards Eclipse technology. It also lets users tap existing Notes applications and gain offline access.

Workplace 2.0 will include Workplace Builder, which uses templates to assemble collaborative components in a point-and-click manner. Executives said they signed 170 new Workplace deals in the fourth quarter.

On the Domino front, Goyal sketched a future that includes embedding the portal framework in Domino. He also briefly mentioned next year's planned release of ND8, a client-side portal for accessing both Domino and non-Domino applications, including enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management software from SAP AG, PeopleSoft Inc. and Siebel Systems Inc.

"There is a clear message that makes current investors in Notes and Domino comfortable," said David Marshak, senior vice president at analyst firm Patricia Seybold Group, Boston. "[IBM Lotus] is talking about convergence in a clear way."

Marshak said current Domino users should begin understanding portals, which lie at the heart of Lotus' strategy. He said companies should familiarize themselves with the concepts of customizing workspaces and the separation of application functionality from application presentation.

To Domino diehards who have lost plenty of sleep over the future of the messaging, collaboration and development platform, today's keynote may finally have offered some peace of mind.

Tina Mastromatto, IT manager at Teva Neuroscience, admitted that at times she was "confused" over where Domino was heading. She said she feels as if she now has some clarity and would welcome a Notes client that enabled her users to access their Siebel CRM applications.

"I'm not saying that's something we'd definitely do, but we'd certainly explore it," Mastromatto said.

Simon Wilson, director of administration and IT at London-based Ropner Insurances Services, also found the client-side enhancements most compelling. He recently invested in Microsoft Great Plains software for back-end financials and also was interested in the possibility of using Notes as an access point.

In the more immediate future, however, Lotus plans to release ND6.5.1 later this quarter. It will feature a new welcome page similar to the Workplace interface, enabling access to mail, calendar, collaborative features, a people finder and custom applications from a single view. It will also tout integrated instant messaging first delivered in last year's release of ND6.5.

The issuing of ND6.5.1 marks Lotus' commitment to synchronize delivery of all products in its Notes and Domino portfolio, simplifying product plans for users.

That's what most impressed Cathy Houser, an e-mail administrator with CSC who manages the Environmental Protection Agency's 1,000 Notes users. "Building that [synchronization] it was really a step forward," she said.

Notes:

Lotus said that ND6 adoption has been six times faster than ND5 and that more than half of the install base has begun to move to ND6…IBM is in the second year of a three-year commitment to invest $1 billion in research and development in Lotus software…Relavis Corp. was honored with the Lotus Award for Best in Showcase.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Event: Special coverage of Lotusphere '04

Interview: Lotus GM addresses WebSphere worries

Dig Deeper on Domino Resources - Part 7

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