New Workplace, Domino Tools To Debut At Lotusphere

That's because IBM Software's Lotus group plans to show off for the first time the nascent Eclipse-based Workplace Designer, which will enable Domino developers to use their existing skills without retraining.

The toolset is a graphical scripting tool for building business applications for the IBM Workplace environment. At Lotusphere, executives will outline how the toolset, due out later this year, fits in with the existing Workplace Builder, which is used by nonprogrammers to do some custom development work.

>> The goal is to provide a rich development environment while preserving Domino skills..

Also on tap is a new version of Domino Designer itself, due this year with the Notes/Domino 7 release. It will add more support for Web Services. The new Domino Designer will let developers expose Web services that can be tapped by external applications, said Ken Bisconti, vice president of workplace, portal and collaboration services.

One IBM source said a key objective is to show how Workplace Designer fits the overall application development worldview and reassure Domino techies that the vendor won't leave them out in the cold.

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The product is part of IBM's master plan to build an Eclipse-based tool portfolio, which it is starting to position as a viable and powerful alternative to the Microsoft Visual Studio.Net suite, sources maintain.

IBM Lotus executives are still trying to repair the damage done two years ago when they signaled that Domino technologies, such as the Notes Storage Facility, were dead-ended and to be replaced by J2EE-based counterparts borrowed from IBM's DB2 and WebSphere portfolios. Since then, Domino has won back respect internally, with the realization that its development and hosting capabilities are better suited for some collaborative applications than WebSphere. Lotus more recently has told developers to expect Domino versions 8, 9 and beyond.

Still many customers—and even company insiders—remain somewhat confused about Domino/Workplace positioning.

Burton Group analyst Peter O'Kelly said IBM has done a good job embracing and competing with Microsoft technologies depending on the situation.

IBM Software has painted both an all-inclusive IBM scenario, with Big Blue portals and applets filling most customer needs, as well as a scenario where IBM middleware fills in around technologies such as Microsoft Office and Visual Studio as customer needs dictate, O'Kelly said.