Ed's note: I offered Bob Balaban some guest blogging space here after the recent discussion on Notes "Hannover" and the place Java plays in that story.  I often turn to Bob for insight from a developer/partner/consultant's point of view, especially since he's had a few years of outsider-looking-in.

Balaban recently authored a piece for IBM developerWorks called "Under the hood of IBM Workplace Collaboration Services".   I learned about this through some comments and questions from Ganapathiram Natarajan.  Check those out, read on, and hopefully if this one works, we'll see more from Bob in the blogosphere here and elsewhere. --Ed


NOTE: This is not an official statement of any kind, just my personal opinion. Further note: Yes, I am an IBM employee (this time around, now into my 9th month! "Not fired yet!")

Things are changing, and when that happens, people start to wonder whether the changes are for the better or for the worse. Some in the Lotus Business Partner community have begun to voice concern about Hannover -- how it is so much more "Java centric" (for application developers) than the familiar, LotusScript/@function oriented "traditional" Notes and Domino. They worry that they will have to invest new energy, time and dollars in learning new technologies in order to maintain their edge, and they worry that this new investment might not reap significant rewards for them.

Such concerns are perfectly understandable, but I think they are baseless.  I predict a new surge in demand for services around Notes/Domino application development and administration when Hannover ships and achieves wide deployment.

Let's look at the historical record:  there was huge demand for Notes-related appdev/admin/rollout services (and product) back in the v2/v3 days, because lots of people were adopting the platform for the first time. V4 came along with a rennovated UI and lots of new technology that improved developer productivity a lot. V4.5 brought the platform into the world of HTTP and HTML, and suddenly the "community" was ("were", if you speak UK English) finding all kinds of new things to do with it.

One could argue, as some have, that since then the market has saturated, that email as a driving force has been commoditized, and that now that it's a 2-player game in a no-growth market, all the effort goes to taking seats from the other player. Not a lot of revenue opportunity for BPs, especially the smaller ones.

But (to switch over into Optimism mode), I really think Hannover is going to represent an inflection point in the technology (and therefore in the business opportunities available) similar to those represented by v3 and v4 in the past. I've described in some depth how I see the WMC and Notes client architectures merging in Hannover (see here). (And let's not leave out the new Sametime stuff, either!) Yes, this is an increase in complexity in some ways. Yes, some (even many) BPs will need to push their envelopes and adapt. But the BP community has, if anything, proved time after time that it is more than capable of doing so. In fact, many of the partners I know thrive at living (working, making money...) on the edge of the technology. That's where their value-add is.

The new functionality that Hannover represents is a big jump forward (as were LotusScript, agents, 3-paned UIs, etc. in V4). New integration techniques with various back-end systems (more disclosure: my current project involves integrating Notes client with SAP, so yeah, I been thinkin' about that a lot lately) are going to take a step forward too. People need this stuff, they want it. And, by "people", of course I mean "customers".

Forget the FUD from you-know-who. Code talks, microsoft walks. We can deliver, they can't (not as well, nor as quickly). We probably won't win every battle, but we are well-positioned to win the war. And by "we", I mean "the Notes/Domino/Lotus/Collaborative Technologies community", not just IBM, because IBM doesn't win unless our BPs win.

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