Java was the watchword this week as Lotus Development Corp. gave Domino developers their first detailed look at plans for the next major upgrade of its flagship Lotus Notes package.
Lotus executives at the Domino Web Developers Conference 97 laid out the first broad strokes of Domino 5.0, which will include support for Internet Inter-ORB Protocol (IIOP), allowing JavaBeans components to be downloaded and run within a Web browser. It also will support JavaBeans, which will give browser users capabilities previously found only in the full Notes client.
Also featured in 5.0 will be real-time connectivity to back-end databases, both from Domino and, to some degree, the Notes client and Web browsers.
Tight integration with NetObjects Fusion, a Web site creation tool from NetObjects Inc., was hailed by Lotus executives as another example of Domino welcoming developers of all stripes. At least one conference attendee was not impressed with the demonstration he saw. "The whole integration with NetObjects Fusion doesn't seem to be there,'' said Tom Rainey, Internet developer for the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco. It seems like the Fusion part only allows you to develop prototypes, and you still have to go back into Notes to develop your site. I was hoping to see more.''
The Domino Mail Server in Version 5.0 is slated to get improved message tracking, backup services and change management, as well as additional standards support in the areas of mail access, routing, cryptography and directories.
"[The Java push] is going to enable people to write more reusable code in that Domino environment,'' said Eileen Rudden, senior vice president of Lotus Communications Product Division.
As for whether Lotus is putting too much faith in the unproven promise of Java, the developers seemed unconcerned.
"They're open to every other interface and every other language you might want to use,'' said Joe Watkins, a Notes specialist for Ikon Office Solutions, Inc., of Buffalo, New York. "If Java falls apart, it's not as if they're not open to the other platforms.''
"In Notes 5.0, the leading theme will be to create a client that looks more like what you would expect the Web to look like,'' said Michael Zisman, executive vice president for strategy at Lotus.
Browsing, mail, calendaring and personal information manager features will be integrated into a very different user interface, taking advantage of IIOP, he added.
While Lotus acknowledges that a planned first-quarter delivery of Domino 5.0 has slipped to midyear, show attendees nevertheless expressed great confidence in the company's ongoing embrace of Java and its overall Work-the-Web blueprint.
"The direction is perfect, I think. It's really what is needed,'' Rainey said. "The way it is now, [Domino] is still more of a Notes application, but today everything is the Web."