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IBM updates Notes, Domino

Company's Lotus unit is touting what it describes as a simple migration process--and looking to battle Microsoft for more deals.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
covers business software, with a particular focus on enterprise applications.
Matt Hines
3 min read
IBM's Lotus division has introduced the latest updates to its desktop messaging and collaboration server software.

With Notes 7 and Domino 7, released Wednesday, IBM is offering new collaboration features as well as tools for building new applications--and targeting an area of the business software market that's heating up.

Big Blue said that it's added more than 100 new features to the Notes client software, many of which are aimed specifically at managing large amounts of data coming into an inbox.

IBM said much of its work was aimed at improving the underlying server software that controls the performance of Notes. The update boasts new visual indicators to help people manage and organize messages, in addition to expanded group e-mail settings and new memory features for saving and opening various types of documents directly from Notes. IBM said it also broadened access across the system to the Notes instant-messaging client.

In Domino 7, IBM is touting increased capabilities for building new collaborative applications in Notes. As part of the undertaking, the company said, it upgraded the package's software development tool set to integrate better with businesses' Web services efforts around service-oriented architecture, or SOA. For example, the company said, a new feature in Domino 7 will allow developers to use the software as a "Web services host," for tools designed to expand on Notes' existing features.

In terms of performance gains, the company said that Domino 7 will allow some of its customers to run up to 50 percent more users per server, requiring up to 25 percent less processing capacity in order to handle the same workload.

Ken Bisconti, vice president of IBM's Workplace, Portal and Collaboration business, said that more customers than ever are pushing the company to expand capabilities for creating and using new collaborative tools.

"There's a huge shift under way in today's market," Bisconti said. "Customers are recognizing that collaboration technology and people's productivity can substantially provide business value and really help the bottom line. Customers are looking for more than just e-mail from their collaboration platform."

IBM's pursuit of the end-user collaboration software market has pushed it into more heated competition with longtime rival Microsoft. Like IBM, Microsoft is bulking up its Office System
product line to incorporate more workflow and collaboration tools. IBM said that the Notes/Domino business experienced double-digit growth during the first half of 2005, driven by over 500 new deals.

Bisconti said that IBM is winning deals by providing a clear product road map, and by providing simpler processes for moving customers onto its software.

"We're benefiting from giving our customers a clear, long-term road map for the Notes and Domino family that we will stick to and deliver on consistently," he said. "We've been very careful not to create a huge migration problem for our customers, and we're aiming to improve that; we believe that the investments that our customers make in applications are really sacred investments, and migration needs to be to the economic benefit of the customer, not just the vendor."

IBM executives said the release will help Lotus add customers ahead of the launch of the company's next major rerelease of Notes--which will include e-mail, instant messaging and calendar applications--that is due to arrive in roughly 12 to 18 months and is currently code-named "Hannover."

The company has said that the Hannover package will focus on improvements around what it calls "activity-based computing" or streamlining the manner in which individuals can manage and share information stored throughout the collaboration and messaging system.

Pricing for the Domino 7 server software starts at $1,145 per processor, IBM said. The Notes 7 software starts at $101 per user, and the Web-based version of the messaging client is being offered for $70 per person.