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IBM Previews Notes in Hannover

IBM provided more details on the next version of its Lotus Notes application featuring back-end compatibility with Workplace, officials announced at a Notes Users Conference in Hannover, Germany, on Tuesday.

The update to the popular messaging and collaboration program, code-named Hannover, will allow developers to create applications from either a Domino or Workplace platform, used independently or together.

Officials at the Armonk, N.Y.-based company are also working on other Notes improvements, such as contextual collaboration and moving the Notes environment from e-mail-centric to activity-centric.

The technology isn't expected for some time; the company hasn't released Domino 7 or Notes 7 for general availability. Analysts at research firm Gartner expect IBM to release Hannover, or Notes version 8, in the second half of 2006.

Hannover will feature what officials call contextual collaboration, where a user can drag an e-mail from the Notes inbox into a contacts list and, clicking on the "recent collaborations" tab, find out what projects the user and that person have shared in the past.

The collaboration can take the form of e-mail messages, presentations or instant messages between the two parties.

To date the Lotus Notes client has been based on Domino, but in recent years, Big Blue has been making moves to beef up its Workplace initiative, which is based on J2EE standards. The end goal, officials have said, is to create a level playing field on both platforms and let customers decide which platform to use.

Matt Cain, an e-mail analyst at research firm Gartner, said the composite features in Hannover is one the company has been promoting for a while and should be popular, but doesn't know what impact it will have on existing Domino users.

"We expect to see a fairly significant uptake of Hannover," he said. "The real question is whether anybody is going to introduce complementary Workplace servers and then pursue this composite application architecture, and right now most Domino shops haven't figured that out yet."