Notes and Domino have long been lampooned as a bad user experience. From an app dev point of view, XPages came along and gave us some freedom. Notes 9.0 gave us a fresh UI and some nice usability enhancements (Ctrl + v to paste as plain text, Quick Find box, Group By Date etc).

On slide 16 of my session with Mike McGarel I showed a Twitter conversation I picked up late last year. It shows how with Twitter Bootstrap a developer could create an application users didn’t think of as a Domino web app. That functionality is now available as a simple extension library on OpenNTF in the Bootstrap4XPages project. It also highlights why IT departments are shooting themselves in the foot if they don’t let their developers consume open source projects, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Then during the OGS we saw IBM Mail Next, a mail experience that looked so fresh and innovative, Domino developers and Notes customers feared it was not built on Domino. There has been some very positive feedback in the press, and Jay Baer (the social media host for the conference) speaking as a consultant rather than a host called it “amaze-balls“. Some of the other screens behind that front page which I saw in the IBM Design Lab and in Kramer Reeves and Scott Souder’s session shows it’s even better. Note, it’s currently with the design team, not the developers, so expect it to be honed and tweaked before it appears in SmartCloud later this year and on premises next year. It’s going to be a challenging way of working for some, but I think it will be a hit with younger staff members. In terms of user adoption, maybe the model of reverse mentoring may help. But it’s not the way people have to work. It’s a choice. But whereas we’ve spent recent years playing catch up with Outlook – we’re close, 9.0.2 will go further and for the die-hards there’s the product previously known as Project Hawthorne. IBM Mail Next takes email into uncharted territory that I think will lay down a benchmark for the competition.

And one thing that maybe helped with the confusion is the name: IBM Mail Next. Maybe the name is driven by cloud first. But there’s no inclusion of the word “Notes” and “Lotus” is long gone. I was a big fan of dropping Lotus in favour of the IBM brand. I’m a bigger fan of dropping Notes for the email product. Notes is an anachronism in that context and it positions this product as the flagship IBM Mail product. The name should not make Domino people fear; it should make us proud, that Domino is front and centre in IBM’s mail product, for now and for the foreseeable future. Whether the name changes when it’s released in the on premises product, I don’t know. I’d like to see it stay.

It’s also important to hear emphasised during Ask The Developers that on premises and cloud mail is not a separate code stream. It’s the same. What’s tested and tweaked and proven in the cloud becomes part of the next on premises release. That’s not a case of on premises being the poorer sibling, getting hand-me-downs; it’s a case that companies are slower to deploy for in premises than a cloud vendor can be.

And while we’re at it, Ask The Developers brought some more great news. That the workspace is getting a makeover. I’m a big fan of the workspace but it’s largely unchanged since I started using Notes in the R5 days. I look forward to seeing what we get. Last year saw announcements bringing design front and centre for IBM and what I’m seeing with IBM Mail Next makes me happy. So I’m confident the workspace is in good hands.

For years everything Notes and Domino has been held up as a paradigm for bad user experience. And many companies have used that as an excuse to move mail off the platform. (Moving applications off the platform is much harder.) Admittedly I’m a back-end guy, but I think the future is bright for user experience with Notes and Domino.

4 thoughts on “2014: The Year Notes and Domino Stopped Looking Like Notes and Domino”

  1. About the new name “IBM Mail”: This shows IBM’s (mis-)understanding of Notes and Domino as a messaging platform (only).

    What about “IBM Apps” as a new name for Notes and Domino? And, yes, mail is an out-of-the-box-app, as is calendaring, contacts, team collaboration, discussions etc.

    Just kidding (or not?) 😉

    1. I’d love “IBM Apps” for Notes and Domino. I think it would make a lot of developers more comfortable about the position of Domino vs Websphere. The name’s not already earmarked for Websphere, is it? 😉

  2. Yessss i remember the last attempt of IBM to kill this product with workplace “6.5 will be the last release of domino”.
    6 month later we have asked a workplace demo to an ibmer demo he replayed “A Demo ? for a sale? Really ? it’s only 2.4 version”
    I think this and the emergence of other document based database will definitively end the presence of IBM this market.

    1. I think you misunderstood my meaning. I’m saying XPages and IBM Mail Next show IBM really investing in Notes and Domino, not only for now, but for the future. It’s making Notes mail a real contender and allowing developers to easily make applications that look good. I don’t see that changing despite recent announcements from IBM about BlueMix and the acquisition of Cloudant. Although I’m not an expert on other NoSQL databases, I believe Notes and Domino has a number of advantages over other NoSQL databases – a powerful security structure, secure local replicas, the in-built web server and technology for serving web and client applications in XPages. And the announcement at IBM Connect about future integration of Apache Solr for searching will give developers added power.

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