Notes X

Will IBM announce Notes 10 next week? I don’t know, but I think it would be about time.
Since Ed’s departure to mobile, I feel a bit cut off. Nobody within IBM is really satisfying my need for news. The only thing I heard, is a new project about connecting MS Outlook, which is a good thing, that will save a ton of money for companies who suddenly find themself in the hands of some Outlook fan boys/girls. But that’s about it.
Now what? Whenever the number „X“ comes into play, we expect something eyewatering (or naughty). OSX was something almost completely new, the Citation „X“ is the flagship of Cessna (and Cessna employees will look extremely annoyed if you say „X“, it’s „ten“, got that?).
What could be the big step forward, to make Notes even in the eye of the general public THE thing to have?
First, an absolute must for the normal user is the ability to have several mail accounts, preferably in one view. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal. And for the security freaks we throw in policies controlling that stuff for good measure.
Second, making little applications should become easier again. Otherwise it will be Excel as the number one management tool for the forseeable future. I am still convinced (I am probably a slow learner), that Notes is the best management tool, as long as they let me do my apps. Third party solutions always have tons of features, that are not relevant to the problem. On the other hand, only 80 percent of the problem is solved, leaving me with the remaining 20 percent, which generate normally 80 percent of the effort.
Third, putting files in a Notes document as attachment, should be a thing of the past. That is probably the hardest part, but as long as files can be stored as XML, they could be imported and „kinda“ rendered as Notes documents. Now wouldn’t that be nice? Since there is an ODF standard, that might even be possible without reinventing everything. I doubt that anybody could implement Microsoft’s „standard“ without getting suicidal, but who knows.
It is great, that you still can use a Notes 2 application in Notes 9 and IBM does a hell of a job here, to make it happen, but one day, it’s just time to put an end to it and move on. I think it’s about time. Lotus Expeditor is way behind eclipse and I fear that it’s a dead end. It was a good idea, but Expeditor could not keep up with the rest and Eclipse itself has more and more problems to keep afloat. IBM has to cut the link between Eclipse and Notes sooner or later. IBM gave the open source community the IDE of choice for many years, but nobody can expect IBM to finance it endlessly. The idea of open source is, to develop its own momentum. If it doesn’t, it slows down and will eventually stop. That’s just the way it is. On the other hand, IBM can not expect, that Eclipse is developed in a way, that supports Expeditor.
But another question pops up. Is there still the need for a Notes client? Why not go web entirely? As long as I can not have wireless connections everywhere (even in that stupid tunnel after Bern), I probably want a client that works offline. But that problem has been solved before. HTML 5 is pretty strong. Now why not just ditch that old-fashioned client and concentrate on web? The problem could be, that we suddenly would have to deal with WebSphere. Although one heck of a good product, but probably not the first choice for an SMB. Buuuuuut, Quickr has gone that direction, Sametime too, why not Notes? Worse could happen. As long as there is some kind of migration path, it would not be the end of the world. Frankly, I would rather have a Connections Mail server based on Domino and easy to develop XPages applications, which work with a Connections installation, than continuing the beaten path which eventually is leads into oblivion, because as of today (that’s now, next week probably have changed my mind) Notes is sold as email with a twist. But that twist is not going to change a lot of minds anymore. Apparently IBM had success getting old customers back onto Notes, for whatever reason. Often only because the promised easy migration to SharePoint failed (and here we have to fight hard, not to look smug. That would be very unprofessional). That proves, that IBM is not abandoning Notes, but I am pretty sure, that some IBMer are also fed up with the old Notes and would rather start something new and leaving some ballast behind. After 25 years of backwards compatibility, that would be ok with me. And if it is still called Notes, I can pretend, that’s my old friend, but that only works if I (and that’s just me) get more of the daily general management stuff and not just some new email feature. Otherwise I can live quite happily with Apple Mail. That thing does what I need. It has its quirks, but so does Notes.
Oh and yes, there is all that cloud stuff. I am really thinking about moving to SmartCloud, but the on premises solutions will always have their market. More today than ever, because nobody likes the feeling, that some guys in trench coats and dark glasses are looking over your shoulder. It’s a matter of principle. Some will say, what the heck, the price to keep my own installation is too high and what does the NSA want with my CRM data anyway, others will pay for having better control over their stuff (or just the feeling). That’s ok. And there are those who had Notes for decades and use it to the max. They need something that replaces it without too much cost. And here comes the question that nobody today is ready or willing to answer. Can we live just with XPages? Can LS and Formula Language be abandoned? They are already on the move to the sideline and one day, there will be a Domino server without it. I personally am looking forward to it.
But since IBM and I never agree, next week will bring a lot of surprises. Either good or bad. Let’s see.

XPages Workshop … proudly presented by IBM

The last three days were packed with XPages. I had the chance to attend IBMs free XPages Workshop in Zürich (which is also available online, if you need it).
This was the second try to attend the course, the first time it was cancelled. I wonder why. Not enough attendees? Who knows.
First, it was worth it. If you are like me, who likes classroom work, it really helps to focus several days just on one subject and have people around who can help, should you run into problems (which we all did).But there are a few things I would change, if I had the chance. I feel, and I asked others if they feel the same, still a lack of basic knowledge. Things like, how the different elements work together why I have just done what I have done during the lab. While the labs are really good, the time you get to explore them is a bit short. I only made it through all of them, because I worked on them during not so interesting parts of the presentations. While traveling back and forth, I reread them, because there was so much more information to digest, than just the steps to make something work.
The presentation were packed with information. No way, I could read them, understand them and listening to the instructor. I do not understand why IBM still does not get it to do good slides. For Oms sake, IBM look at Apples presentations just once and do less, that would help more. There were several hundred slides and that dug into the time we had for the labs. Unfortunately the slides had seldom something to do with the actual lab (or I did not get it). They had the same subject but did not explain anything helpfull. It looked like slides for technical sales, not developers. Some slides, like the XPages road map, appeared several times. That did not make the job of the instructor any easier, who was obviously very competent, but could not share his knowledge due to the slides. His explanations were extremely interesting, when he diverted from the slides and talked about his experience.
We were a bunch of old farts. Quite a few of us were there, just for good old times sake. More than half of us, don’t do any Notes development anymore. Only two young apprentices attended the course (apprenticeship is a highly regarded form of professional education in Switzerland). Both from the same company. There is hope …
But still, the discussions during the breaks were always the same. Especially the smaller partners don’t see a bright light at the end of the tunnel and Connections isn’t an opportunity either. To complicated, too many servers for small companies and so on. Even truly yellow bleeders turn their back at Notes, sometimes just because applications they need and can afford, integrate with Outlook and not with Notes.

There is one thing, that did struck me suddenly. Why the heck didn’t we develop a bunch of different mail clients, when we were still ahead of the game. That could have been a USP. Use Notes and take the client (sorry, app or whatever .nsf is called today)  that fits you best and change whenever you want. There was once a Outlook-look-a-like client. We should have continued doing that. And do a good consumer client. Maybe I am obsessed with the idea, but droping Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook wasn’t very clever either. Imagine what we could do today with the REST services. Does not matter, if they use Outlook, but the Domino server would still be there and Xpages could nicely integrate with both clients (with a few quirks I suppose). NonSQL is in vogue today and who invented it?
Oh my, I am an old sentimental guy.