Lotus To Preview Next Major Notes Release

Changes will include how users find and view information; the focus is on "contextual" searching instead of everything happening through the e-mail in-box.
With Notes 7 due within 60 days, IBM's Lotus Software Group is already set to preview the next step in the Notes/Domino evolution.

Notes 7.x, aka Project Hannover, is slated to be previewed Tuesday in Germany by Ambuj Goyal, general manager of workplace, portal and collaboration software for IBM.

The goal of this release, which may end up being called Notes 7.5, is "all about moving from an e-mail-centric to activity-centric [model]," said Art Fontaine, marketing manager for the Workplace Managed Client at IBM. "Currently, with Notes, everything filters through the inbox. Now it will take contacts and users and activities around a certain task, and they will appear natively and naturally inside the Notes experience."

For example, users can drag and drop someone's name from that person's inbox into the contact list and then open a "recent collaborations" window to show projects in which both parties have been involved. With its Workplace offerings, Lotus has trumpeted "contextual collaboration" for quite some time.

"Today, with the combination of Workplace 2.5 and Notes 7, you can plug the Notes UI into the Workplace container. This [Project Hannover news] is not that. This is about extending the Notes client," Fontaine said.

Goyal is expected to put early code of Project Hannover through its paces at the Deutsche Notes User Group Conference in Hannover, Germany. Pricing and packaging details won't be part of the agenda, Fontaine said. Goyal also showed off some future Notes technologies recently in Boston.

With its dual Workplace/Notes strategy and the IBM Software/Lotus branding, IBM has confused some customers and partners about migration plans. At Lotusphere 2005 in January, the company made some headway in reassuring those constituencies that Notes isn't a dead end, although many industry observers see Workplace--with its Java and WebSphere-based innards--as the strategic offering of the future. Notes and Domino Server blazed the groupware trail with proprietary underpinnings such as the Notes Storage Facility (NSF). IBM claims to have more than 100 million Notes/Domino users.

Microsoft also is beefing up its collaboration lineup. With Live Communications Server and Office 12, the Redmond, Wash., software giant is slated to embed presence and realtime communication more deeply into its offerings. In Office 12, due out next year, instant-messaging sessions are expected to be stored automatically in Outlook folders.

Lotus started "presence-enabling" Notes in the current 6.5 release, but presence will be pervasive in Notes 7, Fontaine said.

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