Since last week's IBM Workplace launch, I've been asked a bunch of times about the direction of the Lotus Notes client.  It seemed best to let the dust settle a bit before tackling this important topic.
The questions appears to stem from a number of places, including VARBusiness's strange re-run of a September opinion column, FUD from the directionless competition, and quotes like this from SearchDomino:

[IBM Lotus Vice President Ken] Bisconti also touched on the Notes and Domino product roadmap in relation to Workplace. He confirmed that the Notes 8 client, which is still on the drawing board and likely more than a year away from release, will be blended with the Workplace client.
Lotus' goal for some time, Bisconti said, has been to steer Notes and Domino toward a standards-based architecture. He said future versions will enable Domino shops to utilize existing applications and features such as rapid application development, templates, security and easy user access, and offer the more advanced functionality that's only available today in Workplace.
Let's tackle this one.  Here is the chart that Bisconti used in the launch press conference; it has also been a standard part of my presentations for about three months.  It is specifically about Notes as part of IBM Workplace -- it's not intended to be a full roadmap slide.


Image:The Notes client and the Workplace client


What's not to like?  Notes/Domino 7, already in beta, speaks for itself.  A 7.x release is in the works, targetted to be primarily a client-focused release.  It will be the first time that the Notes client plug-in will be supported in the Linux and Mac versions of the IBM Workplace client technology, delivering Notes on Linux for the first time.
Then there's the 8.0 release.  What does "blended" mean?  It means that the current plan is for the Notes 8 client to be delivered as part of the Eclipse-based Workplace client environment.  It will still be Notes as you know it today, not some kind of rebuilt client.  It will run the Notes applications you have developed and are developing, just like every other upgrade of Notes has done.  It will be operationally compatible with other releases of Notes.
On the current timeline, the Notes 8 release would be a 2006-2007 kind of deliverable.  Thus, it's a bit early to comment on specifics.  So don't ask me whether maintenance releases will be handled the same way they are today -- I can't answer that yet, and it doesn't matter yet.  What I do know is that Notes has a fifteen year record of excellent forward and backward compatibility.  I see no reason for that to change going forward.
Will Notes 8, or Notes 9, look different than Notes 6?  Yes, in some ways.  Does Notes 6 look different than Notes 1 -- yes, in some ways.  32-bit, Windows&Mac clients, speaking open protocols, server-managed (profiles & dynamic config), integrated search, etc.
Last, again on this slide we have the IBM commitment that "future releases of Lotus Workplace and Notes/Domino continue".  Notes and Domino will be around as part of IBM Workplace for a long time to come.  IBM is always focused on investment protection as well as innovation -- and both will continue to be hallmarks of Notes and Domino, well into the future.

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