Lotus is hoping a solid dose of penguin power will help it remain competitive in the ongoing battle with Microsoft for the enterprise messaging market.
The IBM division announced a host of new product plans at its Lotusphere conference in Orlando last week and outlined future directions for its Lotus/Domino messaging platform.
While some of those changes are designed to align Lotus more closely with other IBM software divisions such as WebSphere, an even more predominant theme is the creation of a messaging platform which doesn't rely on Windows as either client or server. Amongst those, Linux has emerged as the clear favourite.
In the second quarter, Lotus is scheduled to release version 1.1. of its Workplace software, which provides a client environment for users who don't want the heavy footprint of a full Notes installation but need more flexibility than a browser-based client. The Workplace Client package can run existing Notes/Domino applications natively.
Lotus is betting its future on the notion that businesses will increasingly want to deploy messaging and collaboration applications on devices other than PCs. "This brings the 20-year-old PC programming model into the modern world of network computing," said Lotus general manager Ambuj Goyal.
One important step forward for Linux users has been to standardise the browser platforms used for Domino and other Lotus products such as the Sametime instant messaging system. Whereas earlier versions were often certified against different versions of Mozilla (the most popular browser choice for Linux users), future releases will be certified against a single target version, said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president of messaging development at Lotus.
With an estimated 110 million users for Notes/Domino, Lotus remains the strongest competitor to Exchange and Outlook in messaging.
IBM has been increasingly shifting the emphasis on development within Domino towards a J2EE framework -- a move which led Microsoft to last year woo existing users by arguing that a migration from LotusScript to Visual Basic would be easier than having to learn Java concepts if LotusScript was abandoned.
Cavanaugh rejected that argument, saying that LotusScript would continue to be supported and enhanced. Attempts to develop a cut-down version of the language for use on mobile devices had been abandoned precisely because developers wanted the functions LotusScript offered, he told ZDNet Australia.
Angus Kidman travelled to Orlando as a guest of IBM.