Hannover announcement afterthoughts

June 26 2005

It has be 10 days since Ed dropped the Hannover bomb (well, Ambuj made the announcement, but Ed gave the world the images), and I thought this was a good time to make some comments and observations.

At first glance, I think the Notes community let out a simultaneous sigh of relief and cheer at the top of their lungs. Ambuj and Ed and many more IBMers had talked about the future of Notes the past two years. Pledges for multiple versions of Notes going forward. But the press, and many of us in the community, believed that the Workplace effort might see the end of Notes as we know it today.

What "Hannover" has done is give hope. Hope that the Notes platform would continue. That we would not be railroaded (even over time) into the Workplace world. That the product that we have come to love is not being thrown away. The analysts who make their yearly predictions based on emotional reactions or personal bias or professional allegiance might be wrong. Hope that this software product called "Notes", which brought many of us into this industry, is not on its last leg. Bravo IBM, Bravo.

Now that the 'happy glow' of the announcement is beginning to wear off, I think its worth making some observations, comments, and predictions. Before I go on, let me state that I am making these comments based of my own opinions, observations, and guesses. I am not getting inside information here ... everything I have processed is from sources anyone in our community can access.

1. "Hannover" is a recreation, or rebirth, of the today's Notes client

I think everyone realizes that "Hannover" is not a minor upgrade to the Notes client we have installed on our computers today. The announcement gives us lots of names and buzz words, such as Eclipse and Workplace Client Technology. What this tells me is that the Notes client is being 'rebuilt' on top of the WCT, just as the Workplace Managed Client was built. My reaction is great! I do not care how you build it, what technology or programming languages you use ... it just has to work.

The new look and feel of "Hannover" is a breathe of fresh air. I have spoken to many of the Notes graphic people over the years at Lotusphere. I have a lot of respect for them. That being said, I think we can all agree that this new look and feel is needed ... even to just break the stigma of the "crappy Notes interface" that many business users and executives have. One suggestion ... get the Notes icon in the upper left of the application for any future screenshots ... I do not care if this is WCT tech. It will stop a lot of questions from being asked.

It seems that every piece of the core Notes client is being revamped. The main interface, mail, contacts, and even the way custom applications are presented to the end user. All good news.

The pledge for making "Hannover" run on all three client platforms, Windows, Mac, and Linux, is a great move. I think it should be noted that this promise has only been made to "Hannover", the Notes client, not to Domino Designer and Domino Administrator. We also do not know if this means support will be there for all three at the .0 release of this client. Clarification on these issues would help much of the guessing games going on.

Most of all, we the community must realize that this announcement was more a marketing announcement than a technology preview.

2. Lots of unanswered questions ... and this is not the time to expect answers

I have a long list of questions, which I am going to include here. These questions need to be answered, but I am willing to wait. Ed mentioned that "Hannover" will be released in the same time frame as Notes clients have been since 6.0. 12 to 18 month release windows. If ND7 ships in August 2005, that means we would see "Hannover" sometime between August and December 2006. Just in time for Lotusphere 2007 perhaps?

IBM and Lotus Software need to focus on getting Notes and Domino 7 out. They need to deal with the release of Workplace Collaboration Services and Workplace Services Express 2.5. Get Workplace Designer out the door. You have until Lotusphere 2006. At Lotusphere, you will have no where to run :)

  • Does Domino Designer stay as it is, a separate application?
  • Does Domino Administrator stay as it is, a separate application?
  • If Designer and Administrator are separate, do we finally get a client in a separate thread ... so things like the property box do not conflict?
  • Are custom applications surfaced via the Notes Client Plug-in? Domino Application Portlet?
  • Will the Notes APIs still work without changes?
  • Will the Notes COM API still work?
  • Where are the toolbars?
  • Where is the property box? is it gone?  did you rebuilt it to work like the Mac Office Task Pane (hint hint)?
  • How do we build custom applications like in this screenshot? It looks like a combination of a Notes application and Eclipse windows.
  • Will @Formulas and LotusScript be updated to support the new functionality of this client?
  • Will the issue of the WCT packages, that an ISV distributes, having to be rebuilt on each install, be solved before "Hannover"?
  • Since this is WCT, do we get Cloudscape on the end user's machine? Will DB2NSF take advantage of the local Cloudscape?
  • How will all of this new technology work completely disconnected from the network?
  • How will Workplace Designer play when building custom applications?
  • What impact will this have to the footprint on the end user computer?
  • Since this is WCT, this is Java ... WCT is not very fast. Will there be any alternatives for older computers? The original Notes client, with support for the changes, would be a great idea
  • Since WMC has the Document Editors and Viewers (based on OpenOffice) built in, will "Hannover" get those as well?
  • What impact does this have on the Domino server? Server load and performance?
  • Can I still modify the mail file?
  • How will the provisioning for the client work?
  • Will I be using Sametime (and thanks for giving it's rightful name back) or WCS Instant Messaging for awareness? Both?
  • Will "Hannover" work with WCS or WSE Documents? Will the great Explorer integration we extended to "Hannover"? Will this give us Webdav support for the Notes client finally?
  • What changes are going to be needed for third-party addins, such as Handheld synching, calendar software (like Infuzer), and other software that works with the client directly (like Cardscan)?
  • Will alternate browser support be included, such as Firefox?
  • Will we get full support for OS dialogs, especially on the Mac?
  • Will we get the 2 gig database limit bug fixed on the mac? (sorry, had to ask that one)
  • What will the VIOP integration require? What providers are you going to support?

That is my initial list ... if people would like to include more (and lets be reasonable here folks) in comments, I will add them to the list. That way we can give IBM our requests before Lotusphere so they know what to expect :)

3. What can the community do to make the most of the announcement

Everywhere in the community (the Partner Forum on LNN, the LDD forums, blogs, and in IM conversations with folks), we the community want to help IBM. We want to take advantage of this announcement and do what we can to spread the message. Here are the things I think we can all do:
1.        Focus on current installations and development today. Do not stop migrations or new applications waiting for "Hannover".
2.        Work with the ND7 beta. One of the comments I heard from an IBMer was that much more feedback is needed from the community on DB2NSF. I am not sure if that is what people are talking about ... let us wait for the announcement on that. But everyone should have ND7 running on some computer and playing with the new features.
3.        Build interest in "Hannover" without taking focus away from ND7.
4.        Provide feedback to IBM while realizing many of our questions may not have answers today.
5.        Get to Lotusphere 2006!

I am excited to be part of the Notes community today. My job and expertise allows me to be a member of many communities in the technical world (the Microsoft Office, Java, Eclipse, Gaming, ...), but I am most proud to be part of this community. Thank you IBM for giving our community hope. I look forward to working with you on Workplace Designer, Domino 7, Workplace 3, and "Hannover" the rest of 2005 and into 2006. We will be watching with eager anticipation ... and we promise to blog what we like and do not like. Good luck.