At Lotusphere Comes to You in Toronto today, Joe Canadian (a.k.a. Ken Porter) asked, "there are two downloads of the Notes 8 client available in beta, a 'standard' and a 'basic'.  Why two and what's the difference?"

I've been intending to write about this for a few days, on the back of the SMB discussion from last week.  Thanks for popping it to the top of the stack, Ken :-)

There is only one Notes 8 client release, but there are multiple ways of configuring it.  The "standard" configuration is the star of the show, built atop the open eclipse.org Java environment, utilizing Lotus Expeditor for foundational capabilities, incorporating productivity editors, delivering composite applications, sporting a substantially-improved user interface, and doing everything that Notes does today for mail/calendar/NSF-based applications.  The "basic" configuration strips that down, running only the existing NLNotes.exe engine, without all of those other components.  As a by-product of the core work done on the Notes engine and  the mail and personal address book templates, the basic configuration delivers some new Notes 8 features such as in-line spell checking and individual selection of users in free time search.

Why two?  The basic configuration allows for ongoing support for lower-end hardware environments.  The standard configuration requires more RAM and more horsepower than Notes 6 or 7, and IBM recognizes that not all desktops will be ready to take advantage of this immediately.  Notes customers will have the option of a current Notes 8 configuration, supported as part of the "8" codestream, of continuing to run Notes in the same footprint as it runs in today.  But this is an accommodation, not a strategic direction.  

Ken had to ask the question today because the basic configuration isn't discussed in presentations or web content on Notes 8.  The standard configuration represents the strategic direction of Notes, which expands the definition of what "Lotus Notes" is.  90%+ of IBM's efforts are around making the standard Notes 8 successful.  This is critical to the future of the product.  Why?  Because end-users will not tolerate another n years of the existing Notes UI, IT departments will not tolerate another n years of running a proprietary client, and the very definition of what collaboration in a rich client environment represents needs to move forward.

A few have asked why IBM hasn't put more effort into updating the basic Notes 8 experience.  The answer is that the objectives stated for Notes 8 from the outset have been to build the future of Notes.  That future builds upon a very rich and successful seventeen years, with millions of Notes applications and more being built every day.  But we have to move forward.  

Notes 8 is going to be a current offering in market for several years, as part of the standard support cycle for a Notes release.  In that lifecycle, machines capable of running the standard Notes 8 will become the norm, as they are already for new desktop purchases.  We want all users to benefit from all that Notes 8 has to offer.  There is nothing wrong with using the basic configuration, but it's not going to stop the "we want [something easier to use]" conversations, it's not going to help move documents into open standards, and it's not  going to take the proprietary label off Notes.  This release is a big bet on the future of Notes -- and the vast majority of customers and partners we've talked to over the 22 months since announcement agree that it is the right one.

And to be a little bit provocative -- Mike VandeVelde's last comment in the SMB thread said, "Eclipse is by no means a barrier Ed. IBM just has to understand that not all clients *need* it. "  No, and not everyone needed Windows, DOS was doing just fine.  Not everyone needed cell phones with cameras and GPS and browsers and organizers.  I would assert that your -users- do need Notes 8, for any one of a number of reasons.  We did thousands of hours of usability design and testing of this release for them.  They're going to know the new release is out there -- Alistair Rennie (VP of development for Lotus) said this morning at LCTY that people have been asking him about Notes 8 when they see him using it on airplanes, and asking when they can get it.  This is a good thing for the Notes market.  As such, hopefully it makes sense that IBM is betting on the standard Notes 8 to carry it forward.

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