What is it?
IBM's Lotus Domino and Notes have always been essentially collaboration software.
IBM describes Notes as an "integrated desktop client option for accessing business e-mail, calendars and applications on an IBM Lotus Domino server".
From the outset, the products have been customisable, allowing users to build their own applications or extend the pre-built functionality. Domino functions as an application and web server, as well as a collaboration server supporting calendaring, meetings and shared documents.
IBM unveiled major updates to Notes in January this year. The forthcoming Notes 8 and its associated products will all be based on the Eclipse open source software framework.
Analyst firm Gartner says of the software, "Combined with the recently added representational state transfer application programming interfaces, Atom syndication capabilities and 'mashability', these concepts serve as a strategic architecture for all future Lotus products."
IBM is also introducing Lotus Quickr, a Web 2.0-based product for collaborative document management and team support.
Where did it originate?
Notes has its origins in the University of Illinois's Plato Notes, and in DECNotes. The PC version was bought by Lotus, supplier of the 123 spreadsheet. The first release was in 1989, but 10,000 copies had already been bought by professional services firm Price Waterhouse before its release.
IBM took over Lotus in 1995. Domino appeared with Notes 4.5 in 1996, transforming it into an interactive web applications server.
What's it for?
Domino covers a large and growing family of products, with its uses ranging from general messaging and collaboration to specialised document management.
Since Notes/Domino 7 was released in 2005, IBM's DB2 has been supported as a back-end database.
What makes it special?
Replication was built into the earliest versions of Notes and Domino, supporting not only single-site teams, but virtual teams working remotely and across time zones.
How difficult is it to master?
There are many modules on the route to Domino accreditation, and most of them are expensive, so beginners should choose carefully, building on existing development, messaging or administration skills.
IBM is particularly keen to lure users away from Microsoft Exchange.
Where is it used?
Lotus Domino and Notes hold a 20% share of the worldwide messaging market, according to a survey by Radicati Group.
It has a very broad user base, being used in the public sector, in areas such as education, and in the private sector, in areas such as petrochemicals.
There is also a thriving community of software houses developing applications for Domino and Notes.
What systems does it run on?
IBM's own platforms and Linux, Unix, Windows and Mac OS X.
What's coming up?
IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8 are scheduled to be released in late 2007.