After more than a year in beta testing, Lotus Notes and Domino 7 were unveiled by IBM Wednesday, and touted as a more productive alternative to the market-leading Microsoft Exchange.
Among the new features in IBM's flagship messaging and collaboration platform, said IBM executives in a telephone press conference Wednesday morning, are enhancements for IT administrators, developers, and end-users.
"The Notes client has more than 100 new features and incremental improvements, including automatic saving of the client state so it remembers where the user was when it's next launched," said Ken Bisconti, the vice president of the IBM group in charge of Lotus' Notes, Domino, and Workplace. Other improvements range from closer ties to Microsoft's Office 2003 applications and expanded use of instant messaging within the e-mail and collaboration client.
On the administration side, Bisconti ticked off items such as improved monitoring tools and a beefed-up performance that lets IT load 25 to 80 percent more users a server compared to earlier editions. Application developers, meanwhile, get improved Domino 7 design tools, and the new option of using IBM's DB2 database as the foundation for apps.
Mike Rhodin, the general manager for IBM's Workplace group, took pains to guarantee that developers' work done today under Domino 7 will be usable years down the road. "Each step in the Notes and Domino roadmap will show more and more integration between Domino and Workplace," added Rhodin, "so that all Notes and Domino apps are protected without having to do any migration."
IBM has been busy this summer pushing out developer products in its Workplace platform, which will eventually replace Domino as the de facto environment. For now, however, IBM will continue to create a "blending of Workplace and Domino technologies," said Rhodin. The most recent tool, Workplace Designer, in fact, is to act as a bridge between the two development environment.
According to figures collected by both Gartner and IDC, IBM has its work cut out for it with Notes and Domino. The two research firms recently released reports that showed IBM's market eroding under pressure from rival Microsoft and its Exchange messaging software.
By the end of 2004, Notes had only 40 percent of the market versus 51 percent for Exchange, a drop from 2003's 43 percent for Notes. Gartner, meanwhile, estimates that Notes now has slipped under Exchange, and accounts for 45 percent of the enterprise messaging market. Last year, Gartner said Notes had a slight lead -- 46 percent versus 44 percent -- over Exchange during 2003.
Other analysts' projections are even gloomier for IBM. According to the Radicati Group, Microsoft will have 200 million Exchange seats installed by 2009, compared to 103 million seats for IBM's Notes and Workplace products combined.
Befitting an underdog, Lotus exec Rhodin took potshots at his Redmond, Wash.-based rival, although he rarely mentioned Microsoft by name.
"Customers want a clear reliable roadmap, and they don't want someone telling them that they have to buy extra software to use new features," he said, alluding to Microsoft's often-changed and -delayed releases, and its new habit of tying new features in, for instance, Office 2003, to server software upgrades.
Rhodin also blasted Microsoft, which has criticized Lotus Notes and Domino for lacking a migration path to Workplace. "They're just contradicting what we've been saying publicly," claimed Rhodin. "Ours is a smooth, natural evolution. We don't ask customers to step up complexity to install a new version, as Microsoft does after [Exchange] 5.5, when Active Directory and SQL Server get involved."
The Lotus Notes and Domino 7 family of products -- which includes Lotus Sametime 7, QuickPlace 7, Domino Designer 7, and others -- is available now. Prices for the Domino server software starts at $1,145 per CPU, while Notes 7 starts at $101 per client.
The software's available in versions for Windows, Linux, IBM iSeries and zSeries, AIX, and Sun Solaris. Only the Windows Notes client is currently shipping; a Mac version, however, is planned.