Lotus Notes gets a facelift – and a humour transplant

Usability, collaboration and Web 2.0 technologiesis at the core of Lotus Notes/Domino 8

IBM is gearing up for possibly the biggest Notes/Domino release ever and promises that the not too user-friendly Lotus Notes will be a lot more fun in the future.

So Tim Kounadis, director of worldwide channels and marketing for small- and medium-sized businesses for IBM’s Software Group, told audiences at two events last month — held in Auckland and Wellington — designed to build interest in the forthcoming new Lotus Software.

While Lotus Notes hasn’t exactly been known for its user-friendly interface, usability is at the core of Lotus Notes/Domino 8, as well as collaboration and Web 2.0 technologies, such as wikis and blogs, says Kounadis.

To underscore the user-friendly message, the MC at the Auckland event, where the atmosphere was decidedly upbeat, played the comedian, and speakers threw out T-shirts and other goodies to the audience, as Jonathan Stern, Lotus executive of IBM Software Group Australia and New Zealand, promised Lotus Notes would be more fun in the future.

To avoid confusion, the pending release has been narrowed down to five products: Domino; the instant messaging platform Sametime; the team collaboration software Quickr; the social software Connections and Websphere Portal.

Notes and Domino 8 are based on the Eclipse open development framework, which allows developers to build Notes applications that link multiple systems together. Version 8 will include new features such as office productivity tools, which support the Open Document Format (ODF) standard, as well as support for composite applications. There are also improvements in the email client, such as a built-in spellchecker, and the option to group emails into conversations, just like in Gmail.

The productivity tools include word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities, so Lotus Notes users will be able to create, manage, edit and import documents in ODF, says Kounadis. These tools will help organisations move away from proprietary office productivity tools, he says.

“Some organisations use 20% of Microsoft [Office], but they pay 100% of the bill,” says Kounadis.

Collaboration and social networking is a key part of the new release. Using Quickr, staff can create expertise teams with their own team blogs and wikis, team calendar and content workflow. And, with the help of Connections, users can search for people with certain expertise, look up their blogs and tap into their bookmarks, says Kounadis.

While these technologies have been around for a while, he says Lotus Notes is taking Web 2.0 and popular social networking technologies and turning them into communication and efficiency tools within the corporation.

But do organisations really need all these cool features? “This is what the user community expects — especially younger people entering the workforce,” Kounadis says. Lotus Notes/Domino 8 is currently being tested by a group of IBM partners. The official launch is expected in the middle of the year.

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Tags usabilityIBMLotus NotesWeb 2.0blogsodfwikis

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