Hate on the interface all you want, but the fact remains that Lotus Notes remains the second-most-popular enterprise groupware application around. One reason for its popularity is that it provides a full-featured client for Windows and Mac OS X, making it attractive for companies with nonhomogeneous environments. IBM is about to add Linux to the list, as a full version of Lotus Notes on Linux will be released shortly.
For years, Linux users who wanted or needed to use Lotus Notes have been forced to run it under WINE or in a virtual machine. That will soon change, as Lotus Notes on Linux will be released for Red Hat Enterprise Linux v4 update 3 with full support from IBM. By year end, Big Blue will also support SUSE Linux for Enterprise Desktops 10 as well as the upcoming Novell desktop Linux.
Lotus Notes for Linux is not a fully native port, however. It is instead the first version of Lotus Notes to run entirely on IBM’s new Eclipse Rich Client Platform, a piece of middleware derived from the open-source Eclipse Foundation project. According to IBM senior offering manager Arthur Fontaine, using Eclipse allows IBM to write once and run anywhere: "because it handles the integration with the operating system, applications written to Eclipse have a native look and feel but are cross-operating system by default."
The next major release of Notes for both Windows and Mac OS X—coming in 2007—will also use Eclipse, meaning that Notes "will run with complete equivalence" across all three platforms.
I used Lotus Notes for nearly 10 years and like many other users, I had something of a love-hate relationship with it. I would even venture to say that the needle was more towards the "hate" side of the gauge most of the time. Much of that was due to the interface, which has its own exhibit in the Interface Hall of Shame, but I also found it to be bloated and very resource hungry.
That said, it does the whole groupware thing quite well, and adding complete Linux support may strengthen its hand in the groupware space. No one believes that Lotus Notes on Linux will result in mass migrations from Windows to Linux on the corporate desktop. However, some large companies are reevaluating their entire desktop strategy at the moment, deciding whether to migrate to Windows Vista down the road or cast their lot with Linux or even Mac OS X. For those companies reliant on Lotus Notes, being able to migrate their desktops while keeping users on the same groupware may tip the scales in one direction or another.