It's finally here -- today is announcement day for Notes/Domino 8.5.1!  The channel announcement is live, the press release will be issued this morning, press coverage is trickling in, and the webcast on Notes/Domino 8.5.1 is happening at Noon US EDT.  Oh, and the channel announcement spills the beans -- the electronic general availability for Notes/Domino 8.5.1 will be Monday, October 12.

It's going to be a busy day, and there is a lot to the announcements, so I am going to handle them in four parts.  This also gives me an excuse to blog more later in the day, when I will be on the "Lotus Knows" bus here in Chicago (check my Twitter stream for details and if you are in Chicago, be sure to stop by!).

Image:Announcing Notes/Domino 8.5.1 part 1: Free Domino Designer!

Notes/Domino 8.5.1 is more than a maintenance release.  For sure, a ton of quality work went into this release -- four times the number of fixes of a "normal" maintenance release.  There are also a number of new features in this release -- which I've covered in recent presentations such as at IAmLUG, and Mary Beth and team have been covering on the Notes Design Blog.  But the part of today's announcement that I want to focus on first are changes to the way Notes and Domino are marketed and licensed.  The biggest part of the news is that as of Notes/Domino 8.5.1 eGA -- coming in just a few days -- Lotus Domino Designer will now be available at no charge.  That's right!  Free!  My friends at IBM developerWorks Lotus will have some new web pages up later today featuring how to get, learn, and use Domino Designer 8.5.1.

Now, why did we do this?  Lotus Knows!  Actually, making Lotus Domino Designer free was one of the top ideas on the August "Lotus Knows" IdeaJam.  I've wanted to do this for a very, very long time.  In fact, in some ways, making Domino Designer available to all Notes users is a return to the product's roots.  When Lotus Notes was introduced, all Notes users had the application development tools as part of the Notes license and product.  At some point, we changed to selling Domino Designer (originally Notes Designer) separately, and in my mind, that has been a real barrier to bringing new developers into the Notes/Domino community.  Now, anyone interested in working with Domino -- novice to expert programmer, student, consultant, or hobbyist -- can get / learn / use Domino Designer at no charge.

I think the possibilities here are endless.  A developer in an organization that uses Notes but is back-levelled might be able to get a head start on working with Notes/Domino 8.5.1.  A university student who knows Java but wants to "kick the tires" will be able to get Domino Designer in just a few clicks.  A programmer who wants to check out a new tool won't have to hesitate about getting into Domino.

We're going to do more than just give away Domino Designer.  developerWorks Lotus will have a whole bunch of new tools, along with Lotus Education and partners like TLCC, to help educate new Domino developers on how to become experts in Notes/Domino.  We're also looking at ways to have a "Domino server in the cloud" where such developers will have access to a sandbox environment to try out their applications.  We also expect to be a critical part of the increased force in the market around Notes/Domino.  The whole effort here is to invigorate the Domino developer community -- and I can't wait to see how this plays out.

Now your next question might be -- how do I connect this free Designer to a Domino server license-wise, or how do I get support?  For those answers, you'll have to wait for today's blog entry part 2 -- about the new Domino client access licensing model.  Stay tuned...

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