Filling a gap in its development offerings for its next-generation Java-based Lotus collaboration product, IBM Corp is releasing Workplace Designer 2.5. According to Ken Bisconti, vice president of IBM Workplace Portal and Collaboration Software, Designer is likely to become the “premier design tool” for the broad mass of script-oriented developers.
The goal overall is to have tools like Designer jumpstart a third-party ecosystem, where systems integrators and software vendors alike are building extensions or specialized applications atop Workplace.
Designer fills in the middle of the tools line for Workplace. At the simplest level, there is Workplace Builder, a GUI-driven, web-based tool intended for business analysts and non-technical users, enabling them to copy or make minor changes to existing Workplace applications or application templates.
At the other end of the scale is Rational Application Developer, which is aimed at programmers, coders, and architects requiring an industrial-scale tool. Like the Rational tool, Workplace Designer is available as an Eclipse plug-in.
In making an array of tools available, IBM hopes to duplicate for Workplace the kind of ecosystem that Lotus once built for Notes in its heyday. Bisconti expects that Designer will be highly suited for resellers and systems integrators who are customizing Workplace for clients, whereas third party software vendors are likely to require Rational or some other heavy-duty Eclipse-compatible Java development and design tool.
Bisconti also notes that by making multiple tools available for Workplace, that IBM won’t fall into the same hole that it and Lotus had previously dug. A hallmark of Notes in its early days is that power users could build simple applications without having to rely on programmers, he said.
However, as Lotus received complaints form developers that the existing Notes/Domino tools were toys, Lotus and IBM gradually made them more industrial-strength, but losing the business user ease-of-use in the process.
Bisconti estimates that roughly 100 business partners are already using Workplace, with roughly 30 — 40 third party applications commercially available. As party of the Designer release, IBM is also promoting availability of Java components such as portlets so third parties could build composite applications using Workplace.
Workplace Designer 2.5 is available for download now, and will become available for formal distribution sometime next month.