Whither the Notes Client?
This morning I came across a tweet from Ed Brill about Symphony / Open Office with a link to this article about Apache OpenOffice IBM Edition. The article is positive reinforcing that although Symphony 3.0.1 is likely to be the last release, IBM’s commitment to OpenOffice continues (as those of us in the yellow bubble have known for a while) both by feeding Symphony code back into the OpenOffice project and in the release of IBM Docs, announced last week at Lotusphere.
But one point stood out for me in the article. Apache OpenOffice and the IBM Edition will not be based on Eclipse. And anyone at Lotusphere or who used LotusLive Symphony (the tech preview name for IBM Docs) will be aware that IBM Docs is browser-based. At the same time last week, a browser plugin was announced to use Notes Client applications through Firefox and a.n.other browser, to minimise the footprint on PCs. Also Connections mail will enable users to access their inbox via Connections (again in a browser), whether that be Lotus Notes mail or Exchange. And for three years XPages has enabled developers to extend Notes Client applications more easily and more quickly to the web. Similarly there are mobile applications to access all IBM Collaboration Solutions products.
With recent developments, the focus for a single access point has shifted to browser or mobile. So the elephant in the room is this.
What is the future of the Notes Client?
Symphony 3.0.1 will still be supported. There has been extensive work to improve XPages in Notes Client performance in 8.5.3. Embedded experiences will work in both Notes mail and iNotes mail. But composite applications seem to have died a death (except for the Mail application). Symphony integration from Notes Client does not seem pervasive and with XAgents, integration with Excel or PDF seems the way forward. Plugin development for Notes Client has had great potential. With Karsten Lehmann’s work on integrating from XPages to Notes Client, there is potential for offering enhanced functionality to XPages applications that cannot be provided in a browser. But Notes Client plugin development has not been embraced by more than a few in the development community.
But let us not forget that the Notes Client still has one major advantage over ANY competition. Local replicas. While all around you are bemoaning the vagaries of wifi, anyone with a Notes Client and local replicas can still be productive. But the utopia of the Notes Client as a single access point, as the application you use to complete your daily work, the utopia that seemed a possibility with R8 seems to be gone. I cannot conceive the Notes Client disappearing completely and 8.5.4 will ship with Symphony 3.0.1. But if you want a single access point for your daily work, it looks like that’s more likely to be a browser, with all the headaches that brings for everyone in IT departments.