Ben Langhinrichs

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July, 2019
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Civility in critiquing the ideas of others is no vice. Rudeness in defending your own ideas is no virtue.


Wed 3 Jul 2019, 11:01 AM
Overall, HCL has been doing a terrific job. They have revitalized Notes/Domino and fixed some longstanding bugs. They have worked with business partners better than IBM has in a long time. They have injected hope and enthusiasm, and have mostly met all the deadlines they've set for themselves. They have shown vision and commitment to future versions, and I see customers responding.
 
But still I worry. If there is one lesson that large companies who create "platform" products should have learned by now, it is that an ecosystem of third party products, addons, and integrations is key to survival. No one company, no matter how big or dedicated or enthusiastic, can do it alone. There need to be ISVs to meet the niche needs, to innovate in areas HCL can't afford to focus on, to take risks that HCL can't.
 
 
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Lotus understood this, and for the most part IBM did as well. One of the great reasons why Lotus Notes became a huge success early on was a surprisingly robust API that was maintained and enhanced with each version. At times, there were even multiple APIs including the venerable C API and the easier-to-learn but less complete C++ API.
 
The most recent Notes C API was released in 2013, coinciding with the Notes 9.0.1 release. Five and a half years ago.
 
Notes/Domino 10 was released in November 2018, seven months ago. There is still no updated Notes C API, nor any promise of when one will appear.
 
This was all less of an issue for the years following 9.0.1 because frankly, the old toolkit worked fine and nothing was changing. But things are changing now, including new features such as DQL as an example. ISVs watching from the sidelines see features they could build on... but can't. Integrators who might be newly enthusiastic about integrating with Salesforce, Microsoft Flow, whatever are going to hesitate when the most recent deep integration is so far out of date. Along with the C API itself, the related toolkits were built for compilers now considered ancient. To make matters worse, not only is there not a new API or new toolkits, but the commitment to the always-up-to-date API has come into question. If there is no comprehensive API available for Notes/Domino 10, which is at least mostly like Notes/Domino 9.0.1 under the covers, will there be one for Notes/Domino 11, which is likely to have some more substantive changes?
 
Of course, there are many products which require only LotusScript or features available in the product itself. HCL has made some promising noises about app stores and product delivery for those sorts of products, and that is great. But those tend to be products which live entirely within the Notes/Domino platform, and the world is far too integrated and complex to be limited to those. Tight integrations at various levels with non-HCL products tend to require lower level APIs.
 
So, while I know resources are stretched and everybody at HCL is working incredibly hard to deliver on the promises made, I also know that HCL risks a lot by not following through on the longstanding promise of the Notes C API. While I know that very, very few developers use the Notes C API directly, it is a key to the ecosystem of extensions and products which business customers need to actually embrace Notes/Domino again.

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