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12/23/2005
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Q&A: IBM's Collaboration Chief Talks Domino, Workplace Game Plan

Mike Rhodin talks about Project Hannover--the next release of Lotus Notes/Domino--and game plans for Lotusphere, the annual user confab that in 2006 will serve as the launchpad for Workplace 2.6.

Mike Rhodin, IBM Software's general manager for Workplace, Portal and Collaboration software, sat down this week with CRN Industry Editor Barbara Darrow to talk about Project Hannover, the next release of Lotus Notes/Domino, Workplace confusion, and Lotusphere game plans. The annual Lotusphere confab, in Orlando in late January, will serve as the public launch pad for Workplace 2.6, and the first public demonstrations of Project Hannover.

CRN : First, can you give an update on Project Hannover, the next release of Notes/Domino?

Rhodin: Sure. Some of this is a tit-for-tat game with Microsoft. Every time we ship a release, they send out announcement that it's the last release. Four straight times they've sent that out since I've been here and this time we pre-empted them. We talked about Hannover right before we shipped 7 so they couldn't say that. The [Notes/Domino] 7 release was primarily focused on [total cost of ownership] TCO, security, scalability, administration capabilities, what our IT shops are telling us needed to be done.

With Hannover, we looked square in the eye of the audience and said this release is about end users, all about end users. We're coming out with stuff IT shops but we wanted to get that out in front of people…. the focus has squarely shifted to end user.

CRN : You're talking about both the rich client and the thinner client?

Rhodin: Absolutely. At the time we said the first public unveiling of running code would be at Lotusphere. We showed slideware. Our intention is to take the covers off of it. Our intent was to kind of get into beta in mid year and that's still the plan. We have been playing with running code for about four months now and had an analyst event a couple weeks ago, and we showed a sneak peak of what we're going to show at Lotusphere.

The right signals are there. We've been running focus groups with customers as design partners to help guide us and feedback's been pretty good.

CRN :Do you bring in any integrators or VARs into this process?

Rhodin: I wasn't in the meeting so don't know who was there, but we typically do. Hit all the constituencies at different points.

The key thing, particularly with ISVs and partners, is we've been very, very clear that we're not breaking any of the APIs and all the apps they've invested in over the years will continue to run in Hannover in contrast with what Microsoft's doing in E12. Where they announced all the APIs are changing and oh by the way you have to change the hardware too to 64-bit.

CRN: You're not narrowing support to 64-bit servers?

Rhodin: No. We've been doing 64-bit for awhile but we continue with 32-bit support.

CRN : Their argument is that you can't really even find a 32-bit server anymore.

Rhodin: A new one. If you're trying to drive a hardware upgrade that's the statement you'd make and the reality is there are a lot of 32-bit servers out there running both Microsoft and Lotus software and I'm not going to be standing here saying you have to buy new hardware just because you want to go to my next release of software. That's a choice you make on your operations, your administration. We'll continue to deliver choice and flexibility on that.

CRN : Even though IBM has a hardware group and servers to sell and Microsoft doesn't. Does that make Microsoft a better partner to IBM hardware than IBM Software?

Rhodin: [Laughs.] I wouldn't go that far. Microsoft doesn't put any software on most of our servers. We have a lot of non-Intel servers. That's a huge business and we run on all of them. Microsoft doesn't. Even on our Intel servers right now we're pushing high performance Linux and last time I checked Exchange and Office don't really run on Linux.

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