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Lotus Workplace: The next Notes?

Over the years, the IBM/Lotus product strategy has undergone a roller coaster worth of twists and turns (remember Rnext, ASPs and Discovery Server?). So it's easy to understand how Notes/Domino users could be confused or threatened by Workplace, Lotus' set of collaborative desktop applications. Lotus is positioning Workplace as an alternative to Microsoft Office for companies that need more than e-mail, Word docs and spreadsheets.

@4367 What will Workplace mean for Notes and Domino? In the short term, probably very little, said Mike Gilpin, vice president and research director with Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

However, in the long run it could be Workplace, not WebSphere, that puts Notes out to pasture. spoke with Gilpin about the future of Domino, Workplace and IBM's ongoing fight with Microsoft for desktop dominance.

In a recent Forrester brief, the release of Workplace 2.0 was characterized as "a shot across Microsoft's bow." Can you elaborate on that?
I don't think it would be perceived as a shot, not from the perspective of someone who is managing Office applications at Microsoft. I think it would be from the perspective of someone managing the .NET portfolio and the technologies that focus on enabling rich clients, which are heavily utilized by Office. This boils down to the competition for the hearts and minds of software developers. What does Workplace have to do with developers?
Vendors like IBM – they have based their platform strategies on Java -- have not had a good weapon to use in the competition with Microsoft for the desktop. [Java]'s not a good match for the requirements of enterprise developers there. The real shot across Microsoft's bow is the fact that the technology portfolio inside Workplace, as well as the stuff Lotus is building on top of it, makes it a much more aggressively positioned, competitive desktop offering relative to Microsoft than IBM has ever had before.

IBM is hoping that nobody will think it's trying to force Workplace down anyone's throat.
Mike Gilpin
Forrester Research
Specifically, what technology within Workplace makes it compelling?
IBM put together a bunch of things that it already had. The programming language may be Java, but the Domino collaborative platform is integrated with it, then Eclipse for the rich client technology. Having said that, I don't think IBM believes people who have Microsoft Office are going to say 'Let's ditch this and get that Lotus stuff.' With Workplace, is IBM admitting that Notes/Domino hasn't lived up to expectations in competition against Microsoft?
As a desktop application set, yes, I completely agree. As a server-centric computing model, I think there were certain things Domino always did particularly well, such as the way replication works, the multireplication capabilities and the ability to integrate applications into the environment on the server. I think those are no longer areas where Lotus can be differentiated. How should Domino shops react to Workplace, both the product and the strategy? Will Domino shops eventually have no choice but to migrate to Workplace?
I was just reading a DeveloperWorks interview with [Lotus chief technology officer] Doug Wilson, and IBM is hoping that nobody will think it's trying to force Workplace down anyone's throat. Instead, it's seen as an incremental, gradual migration strategy. You don't have to [migrate] if you don't want to, but if you do there's a lot of new stuff to enable you to more closely integrate your Lotus desktop with the other things you're doing on the desktop.
For more information

Read our exclusive: IBM unveils Workplace 2.0.


Check out our webcast on the Lotus Workplace certification program.

Workplace is the latest in a long line of moves that have made Domino pros nervous about the future of the platform. Is that nervousness justified?
I think the announcement of the integration of Domino and WebSphere was not handled well, and it frightened the existing customer base. So IBM and Lotus are seeking to ensure that Notes DLLs can be used in the Workplace client environment. Lotus is smoothing the path, no longer making it appear that it's trying to create this migration imperative. Instead it's just an option. Eventually, to speed that migration, there will be tools available to assist developers in making the transition. Those tools aren't available yet. Finally, based on what you've seen so far, how do you handicap Workplace's chances of living up to the Notes/Domino legacy and providing viable competition for Microsoft?
If you're just looking at messaging, then this doesn't make a big difference; it doesn't change the Domino vs. Exchange argument. But if I'm a company that has a big investment in legacy systems that I need to integrate, and if I have mobility requirements that are better satisfied by the overall IBM value proposition, then Workplace will absolutely be better for me.

The question is, how many companies are there like that? I think a lot of big companies are like that. So my overall take is that IBM will remain at the high end of the market, where companies are big and complex. It should maintain a dominant position there, but Microsoft will be there, too. And Workplace can certainly integrate with Microsoft apps, so it doesn't preclude a kind of mixed environment scenario, but it does enable a more competitive desktop alternative in environments like the call center.

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