We have a guest blogger today -- my boss, Kevin Cavanaugh, IBM Vice President, Messaging and Collaboration Products.  Read on:

I was browsing Notes and Domino community posts last Friday when I came across an interesting post from Duffbert on composite applications. It was inspired by a post by Nick Shelness that I had not seen and had an equally interesting set of comments from other folks I recognized and respected.  They got much right about Notes and Composite Applications, but I feel the need to try to clarify a few things.    

  • Composite applications were originally a portal construct that  can also be valuable in an Eclipse-based Notes client. We continue to use it for our own Notes PIM applications and we have seen extensive use of it in portal implementations. This construct was not invented for Notes and is not some passing fad
  • I was surprised that one person's comment thought he had been 'told' that end-users would be building composite apps. My first thought was 'I hope I am not the one who said that in a fit of technical inebriation.' What I remember saying to the Notes and Domino development team was that composite apps were for professional developers. The goal was to share some of the techniques we were using to build PIM apps to construct other professional applications. The examples in the comments do just that. My intention for the first release was to be successful when our most capable partners could do cool things. Focus on mere mortals could come later.
  • Maybe we have not been clear enough. We are NOT trying to push one programming model. We have a great programming model with Domino Designer. xPages is a significant investment to extend that model.
  • Composite Apps is an off-shoot of the portal programming model. It was designed to allow the assembling of sophisticated line of business applications from a variety of backend systems. At least two major international banks are building new teller workstation systems with Composite Apps. These systems are typically not built and deployed in a few days or weeks. The RAD requirements are not the same as for Domino Designer developed apps.
  • Widgets and its wizard are meant for use by end-users, and xPages was designed with the vast majority of Notes applications in mind. Widgets are meant for mere mortals and there is some evidence that mere mortals are using them. xPages are meant for long-time Domino Designer users, and there is very ample evidence that they are gaining traction. Widgets appeared in 8.01 and have been extended in 8.5. xPages appeared in 8.5 and there is more coming. Watch for xPages in the client and on mobile devices.
  • There is a complaint in Nick's original post that we no longer have a symmetrical rich client and browser development model. Did we ever? I would argue that once we get xPages on the client we will have the most symmetrical model we have ever had. There is also a browser/client symmetry in composite apps; portal composites and Notes composites. Widgets in Notes and iNotes complete the symmetry.
  • All this said there were a lot of good points made in the discussion. Enhancements are needed in Composite Apps, xPages and Widgets. We staged the release of these capabilities and have probably never communicated clearly where each fits. However, we have not backed away from any of these areas. It is true that xPages is getting the most development attention at the moment, but that is for a very good reason. Our base is telling us by their actions to focus there. it is a fair point that it is expensive to maintain multiple programming models and that almost unavoidably one will appear to be the favored child at any given point in time. However, we are a big company. We have lots of sister divisions who contribute to our technology. All three of the models, composite apps, xPages, and widgets have synergies with other things IBM is doing and all three are getting help from outside of Lotus.

What really made we want to comment were two assertions by Nick:
  • There is very little (if any) additional Notes functionality being delivered to Notes developers
  • Microsoft has now caught up, and in some areas surpassed Lotus

Did Nick miss xPages? and exactly how has MS caught up? Designer still provides a stronger RAD environment. Decent off-line support only exists in Notes. Notes and Domino customers continue to complain to me that Sharepoint has a very weak workflow model that is incapable of matching the capabilities of Notes and Domino.

Nick then plays the 'legacy' and 'Workplace' cards. Even Microsoft has largely given up on those. I am encouraged that in their most recent propaganda, Microsoft is not declaring Notes is Dead. Instead they are comparing Notes 8.5 released in January 2009 to Exchange 2010. Seems like an admission that their e-mail server is still a year behind our messaging and collaboration products.

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