Lotus collaboration suite blossoms

Anytime, any place, anywhere – except Seattle

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Lotusphere Confidence is brimming at this year's Lotusphere conference, with a belief that the IBM Lotus collaboration products are bouncing back against Microsoft.

At the conference, in Orlando, Florida, Lotus general manager Mike Rhodin said: "Our growth was in double digits last year [10 per cent] and the market only grew by about four per cent. So we must be stealing market share from someone.”

Actual market analyst figures will not be available for a month or two.

The only independent comment came from a Gartner analyst when he prefaced a question with congratulations to Lotus on its improved performance last year – Gartner’s official evaluation of the collaborative software market is not due until June.

Rhodin kicked off the show by dispelling rumours that a disruptive change will come with upcoming releases of Notes and Domino products next year. "For the record, there is no architectural shift involved, it is pure growth with no regression. There will be continued support for all Notes applications.”

The release he referred to is codenamed Hannover and will become Version 8 of Notes “sometime in 2007”. The planned decoupling of the Notes client from its Domino server when Hannover was announced last year initiated rumours that Domino was on the chopping block. Not so. Evidently, the imaginatively codenamed Domino “Next” is in preparation and should be released at the same time as Hannover.

Lotus has been ignoring its Apple Macintosh release schedule, but this will be addressed with Notes Version 7.02 for both the PowerPC and forthcoming Intel versions of the Mac in the autumn. The Mac version will only support the FireFox browser because required features are lacking in Apple’s own Safari browser. “Apple has been promising to do something about this – but we’re still waiting,” commented Rhodin.

Linux users will still have to wait for Hannover’s release to get their Notes client, but a plug-in for Notes is provided by IBM Workplace 2.6 which shipped on January 17.

The positioning of the Workplace suite, all IBM-badged products, among the Lotus releases is an indicator of the future. Rhodin points out that as part of IBM, Lotus can draw on the IBM software inventory to enhance and extend the reach of his own division’s products. Workplace is rapidly becoming IBM’s primary interface because it launches applications on their native server, rather like a software thin client. So Linux users can access Windows applications and vice versa.

A recent project with the Chinese Government underlines this as there was a need to tie together data centre applications at the country’s banks, customs offices, foreign trade organisations, tax departments and other authorities. The China E-Ports initiative was handed over to IBM, and Workplace not only provides the glue to tie these disparate systems together, but also adds a standardised layer of security and encryption.

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