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iNotes for Outlook: Will users be happy?

The strengths and weaknesses of iNotes for Outlook

Remember our recent briefing on the Microsoft Corp. vs. Lotus Corp. iNotes feud? searchDomino has since learned that Microsoft's list, things to consider with iNotes, exists nowhere as a single document. Ed Brill, Lotus' director of marketing for Notes and iNotes, instead calls things to consider "an amalgam of criticisms made by Microsoft to [Lotus'] potential clients, which I received via fax and e-mail."

Brill does not blame Microsoft senior vice president Steve Sinofsky for trying to dampen customer enthusiasm for iNotes for Outlook, which allows administrators to migrate from Microsoft Exchange Server to Lotus Domino Server without disrupting service to Outlook 98/2000 users. "[Sinofsky] joined us at Lotusphere Orlando 2000 to indicate that iNotes Access for Microsoft Outlook was a joint effort with the Microsoft Office team, and that he was very pleased with the results," Brill says. (Microsoft refused our request for an interview.)

Microsoft, Brill says, misrepresents iNotes when it decries the product's lack of collaboration features. "The Microsoft Outlook mail/PIM client was never designed to be a collaboration environment," writes Brill in an online response, "thus it is impossible for Lotus to provide such services."

But Brill concedes Lotus did sacrifice some features in its push to ship iNotes for Outlook with Domino Release 5.0.5. "We never committed to doing everything," he says. "We had to make some tradeoffs in second- and third-tier functionality." iNotes for Outlook does not support Outlook's iCalendar feature, public folders, voting buttons or "out of the office" autoreply functions. It does, however, provide Outlook users with rich text e-mail, task management, calendaring and scheduling features.

And some of the purported weaknesses of iNotes for Outlook may be its strongest selling points. For example, while Microsoft criticizes iNotes for Outlook's dependence on Notes ID files, Gartner Group analyst Maurene Grey sees that as a selling point for Domino R5.0.5. "It's true that you do have to manage Notes IDs with iNotes," she says, "but Domino's security model is actually one of its greatest strengths."

Still weighing the strengths and weaknesses of iNotes for Outlook? The sites should clarify your choice:

Lotus answers questions about iNotes for Outlook's impact on Domino server performance and security, and offers work-arounds where it falls short in its support for Outlook 98/2000.,inotes

If you skipped our first briefing about iNotes Outlook, you can read it here.

Here are links to reviews of iNotes software, including Infoworld's look for iNotes Web Access.

Here you'll find Ed Brill's response to Microsoft's criticisms of iNotes for Outlook, "Microsoft Exchange Reality Check." And be sure to read Lotus' January 2001 whitepaper for administrators.

If you choose to use iNotes for Outlook, you will have to read up on DOLS (pronounced dolls) at DOLS, or Domino Off-Line Services, uses Domino's replication and security features to synchronize users' off-line work to the server each time they reconnect. Lotus solutions architect Bruce Hitchcock details DOLS' capabilities in his fall 2000 paper, Domino Off-Line Services: An Administrator's and Developer's Guide.

Mark Baard is a contributing writer in Milton, Mass.

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