On Friday I’m delivering a presentation on IBM Lotus Notes / Domino 8.5 at the open day of Swindon-based Lotus Business Partner InfoSys. As we’re now past beta 2 of 8.5, I thought I’d better spruce up the material we covered at Lotusphere Comes To You. Some details have changed and been refined since then (six months ago), and of course the Notes client has continued to be polished (and I can truly say it’s now shining).

Publicly we’ve continually said that 8.5 is a server-focused release – at Lotusphere Domino’s chief architect Russ Holden called it the most significant Domino release since (I’m sure he said) version 5. And without doubt there are some very sigificant developments on the server such as the Notes ID vault and the Domino Object & Attachment Services. These are things that will contribute to lowering the cost of ownership of a Domino infrastructure.

However, considering 8.5 is supposedly a server-focused release, there’s a load of new things in the client… obviously nothing as major as the leap from version 7 to 8, but there’s several slides-worth of stuff that I’m going to cover for an audience who have already seen Notes 8.0.1. As we get towards the 8.5 ship date at the end of the year I’ll cover these capabilities in more detail.

What caught my eye today was something I’d not yet explored much, the new integration between Notes 8.5 and IBM Lotus Connections. Activities have been integrated since day one, but up until now the other bits (Dogear, Profiles, Blogs and Communities) weren’t so well integrated.

The new integration works like this… firstly, right-click on any document (e-mail, appointment, task, journal entry, TeamRoom document, workflow document, etc) and you’ll get a Lotus Connections menu that leads to the one seen above. So you can bookmark any Notes document in Dogear, but you can also insert a reference to the document in an Activity and share it with your colleagues.

Then there’s the new search menu. The screenshot seen here comes from an e-mail right-click menu (cropped), and this will allow you to search Connections in the context of the e-mail sender – find their Profile, associated Activities, Dogear bookmarks, Blogs or Communities. You can also search the five Connections elements from the Notes 8.5 search bar.

The results of any search will be seen in Notes, whether the results are Notes-based or Connections-based content. The screenshot below shows the results of searching for my name in Dogear.

Note that you can return to previous searches, and change the scope of the search. For example, in the case of Dogear and Communities, you can limit a search to your own bookmarks or communities that you’re a member of. When searching Profiles you can search by name or by keyword.

What we’re seeing here is that the Notes client is not just about e-mail, and has now gone further than the traditional Notes applications that so many companies derive value from. The open nature of Notes 8.x and beyond provides many possibilities for plugging in other capabilities. Already we’ve seen Sametime and Quickr tightly integrated, and now Connections. Early in 2009 we’ll see a deep level of SAP integration with the solution codenamed ‘Atlantic’. I’ve said it before… when you decide that there’s a better way of collaborating than sitting in an inbox all day, Notes is ready for you whatever you need to achieve. Crikey, I should be in marketing…