Lotusphere 2004: Lotus stakes its future on Workplace
IBM won't abandon its core of Lotus users, officials say
IDG News Service - Executives from IBM's Lotus Software Group used the opening presentations today at the unit's annual user show in Orlando to sketch out the strategy behind IBM's year-old Lotus Workplace platform and to reassure users that IBM won't abandon its core of Lotus users building on the Notes/Domino architecture.
"Our strategy is to increase our leadership, not walk away from it," Lotus General Manager Ambuj Goyal said during his address.
Regarding competitors' claims that the company will orphan an installed base that IBM estimates at 100 million end users, Goyal answered, "Let me tell you categorically, nothing could be further from the truth."
Still, the opening session made clear IBM's commitment to Workplace as its future for Lotus development. The company's plan is to steadily increase the interoperability of the Workplace architecture with that of Notes/Domino, so that current Notes users can eventually migrate to Workplace without losing access to existing Domino-developed applications.
Toward that end, IBM used the presentation to demonstrate tools in the latest version of Lotus Notes and Domino allowing developers to pull Domino applications into a portal-based Workplace deployment. The company also previewed its forthcoming Lotus Workplace Builder software, which is intended to simplify component-based application development.
IBM last year introduced the first version of Lotus Workplace, an architecture for Lotus applications that draws heavily on other technology in its portfolio, including its WebSphere middleware technology and DB2 database. Workplace's Java-focused design allows a flexible, modular approach to crafting an organization's collaboration and messaging system, but its architecture is very different from the Domino-based design IBM acquired through its 1995 purchase of Lotus.
"Until recently, the factor limiting our growth has been the tight link between Notes and Domino," Goyal said. "The solution has been to federate the system."
That approach risks alienating customers who are content with their Notes/Domino systems. While repeating assurances that no one will face a forced migration, Lotus executives extolled the advantages of Workplace in today's presentation, highlighting the integration advantages of its Java architecture. Connecting to other IBM and Lotus software systems and to those from third-party developers such as ERP leader SAP AG will be painless, executives said.
The next step for Workplace is the planned early-second-quarter release of Workplace 2.0, featuring a new client application, which will unlock extensive off-line and integration functionality not yet available in Workplace 1.0's server-side software.
To illustrate Lotus' proclaimed commitment to exploring new frontiers in collaboration technology, the company brought onstage Star Trek: The Next Generation star Patrick Stewart, who won an ovation far noisier than those accorded to Lotus executives. Stewartshowed off a few Shakespearean monologues from his repertoire and spoke about art and creativity, loosely tying those themes back to the presentation's premise about the future of Workplace.
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