Yesterday at Lotusphere 2012, IBM announced Lotus Notes and Domino Social Edition, the next feature release of Notes & Domino. This new release will enter beta this quarter and is expected to ship in 2012.

Today's announcement features elements that have been publicly discussed for some time -- such as embedded experiences in Notes and iNotes -- and new components, e.g. the product name and some of the new capabilities. Some of the loudest applause during the Lotusphere opening general session came when a key component of this release -- the Notes Application Player Plug-in -- was demonstrated.

Though we've occasionally hinted and once demonstrated the plug-in before, today is the first time we've formally announced it and done a public demo. The plug-in runs in Windows browsers -- Firefox and we'll probably do one other -- and allows Notes applications to run unmodified in the browser. The plug-in is a one-time download, much like the Adobe Acrobat model, where once installed, the browser can access Notes applications directly.

Our intent in building the plug-in is to provide an approach to a common strategic direction we hear from customers today -- the desire to utilize a browser for all custom business applications. While the installed Notes client will always provide the richest, most-integrated mail and applications experience for Domino, increasingly we are asked for help in getting away from desktop deployments. Desktop clients are, for any software -- Notes, Microsoft Office, SAP -- one of the more expensive cost-of-ownership components for IT organizations today.

The vision for Notes/Domino Social Edition is to establish web and mobile as first-class experiences, not secondary efforts done after we've perfected a Notes client capability. For example, the Notes Traveler client for Android will be substantially improved on tablet devices, with better calendar views and presence awareness. The Application Player plug-in completes the picture for browser-based Domino users, making their application experience as rich as possible.

Now, some applications need more than the plug-in. It isn't going to do anything for appearance and usability -- the applications will look and act the same as they do in the Notes client today. Many companies will continue to explore application modernization to XPages, through in-house or partner work, or tools such as the GBS Transformer. For the basic, typical Notes application, though, the plug-in will run your Notes application - it is, after all, just Notes.

Notes/Domino Social Edition has several additional enhancements and components. The big one in Notes and iNotes is embedded experiences, sort of a modern approach to "store form in document" Notes applications. Embedded experiences are applications designed using the Open Social 2.0 standard and the Apache Shindig container. They will provide a more seamless user experience by keeping the end-user in context of where they are already working. Surveys, YouTube videos, workflow approvals can all be acted upon without having to open up a new window/container/browser. In the Notes client, there will also be incremental feature updates, especially in mail and calendar, designed to improve usability. iNotes will have an updated implementation of calendar, faster and more dynamic. The Domino Server will have new features such as SAML support. In the coming weeks, I'll get more specific in blog entries about the new features of Notes/Domino Social Edition.

Lotus Notes Social Edition - Home Page

What version number is Notes/Domino Social Edition? Answer: It isn't. It's a feature version, but it is built atop the simultaneously-forthcoming planned Notes/Domino 8.5.4 release. Our belief from countless customer feedback sessions was that the more we could deliver new features atop the 8.5.x codestream, the easier it would be for our customers and partners to adopt the new features. Movement to a version "9" requires so many IT organizations to consider a "rollout plan" differently than an 8.5.x kind of upgrade. If you want, you can just deploy 8.5.4 with no new features, or you can add the Social Edition upgrade atop 8.5.4 and expose these new capabilities.

I anticipate a zillion questions about the Notes Application Player Plug-in. A few FAQs I can get out of the way now: It will run on Windows only, doesn't support the use of email through the plug-in, is less than 100 MB to download and install, and will run apps that are built to be self-contained typical NSFs. It won't support composite applications or other componentry built to take advantage of the full Notes 8 / Eclipse framework. We haven't decided which browser besides Firefox to build for; Chrome would be more approachable. If you have others, help us assemble the FAQ now.

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