Workplace platform gone, some parts remain

Workplace technology folded into development of WebSphere

What started in 2003 as an effort to build a collaboration platform constructed of reusable components met its official demise on Monday at IBM’s annual Lotusphere conference.

Workplace, the company’s plan to build a J2EE-based replacement for Notes/Domino, is no longer a stand-alone product line, according to Mike Rhodin, the general manager of IBM Lotus. Instead, says Rhodin, Workplace technology would be folded into development of WebSphere and forthcoming collaboration components such as Quickr, the next iteration of QuickPlace team-sharing software.

Clearly for IBM, the direction now is to focus on Notes/Domino and WebSphere, and provide software components that can run on either platform. Workplace had been a constant grating on users who believed it the beginning of the end of Notes.

“The one thing that you told us, the analysts told us, is that we were confusing the hell out of [users] between Workplace and portal, so we listened and made it one thing,” says Rhodin. “A lot of web stuff in our products was invented by the Workplace team and it has been harvested and folded into new products and it is bringing new life to our core brands.”

Lotus Expeditor, formerly named Workplace Managed Client, is one legacy of the Workplace platform. The framework is the foundation for the Notes 8 client and for Sametime 7.5. In addition, technology from Workplace Collaboration Services will live on in the new Quickr application, which will eventually incorporate team-sharing capabilities and document management.

But certain components have been killed outright, namely Workplace Messaging, which was the first Workplace component introduced back in May 2003.

DaimlerChrysler was cited in the original press release introducing Workplace Messaging, and was singled out as a company that was evaluating the software. The original pitch was that Workplace Messaging was aimed at providing email for “deskless” workers.

“They learned a lot with Workplace,” says Peter O’Kelly, an analyst with the Burton Group. “It is not a brave new product. It is an extension of WebSphere portal. It was a humbling lesson for IBM. I think they kind of overreached and then backed off. But clearly Workplace was seen as the replacement for Notes/Domino.”

That is no longer the case, which was made quite clear during a two-hour keynote address on Monday in which Workplace drew only a whisper of a mention.

But while the products are gone, IBM/Lotus is holding on to the concept of a server-based architecture that provides application components for any number of standards-based clients.

The concept is alive in Lotus Connections, which was introduced on Monday and touched off a buzz in a Lotusphere crowd that has been all but ignoring Workplace for the past four years.

Connections features a collection of social networking tools IBM has used internally over the years, including a bookmark-sharing application called Dogear.

In the wings, IBM is producing another round of tools with names such as Cattail and Many Eyes that testers are already raving about.

Connections, slated for release before the end of June, also lets users share workflow-supported lists of current activities, work in well-defined online communities and create a hyperlinked blogging environment.

The components all run from a server and users can access them from a variety of clients. Notes 8 and Sametime will have built-in support because they have the Lotus Expeditor framework at their core. Notes 7 can be enhanced with options in certain drop-down menus and a web browser is a thin-client option.

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Tags LOTUSPHEREWebsphereIBMworkplaceLotus Notes

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