joi, 23 august 2007

IBM unveils Lotus Notes 8

By all accounts, the much-needed upgrade offers a modernized user interface for Notes as well as new usability tools and added capabilities, such as the ability to send instant messages from within the e-mail client via IBM's Sametime software.

The changes are the result of building the Version 8 client on top of the company's Eclipse-based rich-client platform, according to IBM officials.

Version 8 represents IBM's strategy to create client interfaces built on a common platform. This will allow components of any client application to be provisioned and managed centrally, said Barton Group analyst Karen Hobert.

For example, Notes 8 is built on the same programming model as Lotus Expeditor 6.1.1, which is based on open standards from The common framework becomes an open client for mashups and composite applications in addition to the traditional Notes features.

Although Notes 8 may not steal market share from Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook client, Hobert said the new release should more than satisfy current Notes users.

"It was a product that has been neglected for quite some time," said Hobert. "Now organizations that do have Notes mail can offer to their users an e-mail client that is on par with whatever else is out there."

Notes 8 offers users upgrades in three major areas: extensibility through plug-ins and composite applications; a new provisioning capability; and editing tools based on the Open Document Format for Office Applications for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

Because the framework is an open standard and Java-based, managers can also get at the controls to change menus based on usage models and to provision users by sending out a wrapped file that is easily opened on the client side.

Both Notes 8 and Domino 8 are shipping now. IBM said its suggested retail pricing starts at $101 per client for Notes 8 and $73 per user for the company's Domino Web Access software, a browser-based alternative to the full e-mail client.

Apple signs iPhone deals for Europe, report says

August 22, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- Apple Inc. has signed its first deals with mobile phone service providers to offer the iPhone in three of Europe's largest markets, ending a period of intense negotiations, according to a report in the Financial Times newspaper.

Germany's T-Mobile Deutschland GmbH, France's Orange SA and the U.K.'s O2 (UK) Ltd. are reported to have signed exclusive deals to sell the iPhone in their respective markets.

The service providers have agreed to give Apple 10% of the revenue generated from sales of voice and data services for the device, according to the Financial Times story, which cited unnamed sources. The service providers hope to introduce the phone in time for the holiday shopping season.

Apple plans to announce the deal officially at the IFA international consumer electronics exhibition in Berlin next week, the Financial Times reported.

The iPhone launched in June in the U.S. through an exclusive partnership with AT&T Inc. Initial reviews were positive, except for concerns about AT&T's slow EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution) data network, and the fact that the iPhone's battery can only be replaced by returning the device to Apple. There were also activation problems during the first weekend, when thousands of customers tried to activate their phones at the same time and overwhelmed AT&T's servers.

Since then, speculation had been rife about who Apple would partner with in Europe. Most initial reports agreed that T-Mobile and O2 would be among the partners. Some reports, citing unnamed sources, said that Vodafone Group PLC, Europe's biggest mobile service provider, had been outbid by rivals in eleventh-hour talks.

Europe's splintered telecommunications market makes it harder for Apple to launch the iPhone here than in the U.S. None of the big carriers cover all of Europe's most populated markets, forcing Apple to strike deals with several companies.

The iPhone could provide a boost for mobile service providers in Europe, where brand loyalty is not very strong and customers tend to choose service based on coverage, Forrester Research Inc. analyst Niek van Veen said in a recent interview.

Apple's new smart phone may also help them to secure longer-term contracts with customers, who tend to favor prepaid calling plans in Europe over long-term subscriptions. That same factor could also work against the iPhone in Europe, however. Apple and AT&T require iPhone customers to sign up for two-year contracts, and that's an unusually long period.

Apple's steep demands may have made it harder for the company to reach agreements, van Veen said.

AT&T reportedly is also sharing a portion of the revenue from the iPhone. It's a new business model that Europe's carriers may be reluctant to swallow, van Veen said.

"It's more than just a question of reach and what Apple wants, it's how much operators are willing to sacrifice their current [business] model for this phone," he said.

The contracts with T-Mobile, Orange and O2 were signed in recent days, according to the Financial Times. The top executives of T-Mobile and O2 campaigned for personal talks with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, the paper said.

The story appeared first in the German-language Financial Times Deutschland and was reported later in English in the U.K. Financial Times.

James Niccolai in Paris contributed to this report.

Google's Blogger hit by outage

August 22, 2007 (IDG News Service) -- Google Inc.'s Blogger blog publishing and Blogspot blog-hosting services went offline earlier today. Among the organizations affected by the outage was Google itself, which hosts its official company blogs on Blogspot.

Blogger publishers have posted a rising volume of complaints on the official Blogger discussion forum since Monday, reporting problems editing, publishing and accessing blogs.

However, things apparently took a turn for the worse this morning, when Blogger and Blogspot apparently went offline.

Checks on and a variety of Blogspot-hosted blogs by IDG News Service staffers in different parts of the U.S. and Europe returned server error messages, confirming reports from users in the Blogger discussion forum.

Blogger and Blogspot were back online around 11 a.m. EDT. The outage apparently lasted more than an hour. However, many Blogger publishers have been reporting error messages when trying to perform a variety of operations at least since Monday.

Google didn't respond to a query yesterday about the complaints piling up in the discussion forum, nor did it reply to a request for comment this morning about the service's outage.