Ben Langhinrichs

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Serendipity - Why stop at the rich client?

Tue 27 Jan 2004, 09:21 AM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Serendipity is the discovery of something valuable while not looking for it.   While often applied to scientific discoveries or revelations, such as Newton and the apple, it is a frequently experienced phenomenon among developers.  While trying to solve one problem, a solution to a completely different problem is revealed.  Take, for example, my grand effort years ago to develop an LSX that would allow structures in Notes.  The first step was to build an LSX that would allow control over the rich text, but when I finished that, I realized I had stumbled on something much more valuable than the original goal, and 850 thousand licensed users in 44 countries later, I'm really glad I stopped and noticed.

Anyway, back to the rich client.  In the opening session at Lotusphere, there was a cool demonstration in the last couple minutes, where a Notes application was surfaced in the middle of the new rich client, with tabbed tables and sections and so on.  Wow!  The audience really liked it.  I loved it, as preservation of the Notes client would be no small deal for people like me who sell extensions to it.

But wait!  When I stopped in the developer lab and asked about how this amazing feat was accomplished, the person told me you had to install the whole Notes client on the machine as well, and then they just created an ActiveX/OLE Notes version to put in a window of the rich client.  It was a cheat!  A fake!  And it certainly wasn't going to lead to a Linux version.

It was not until later that I was describing this to the fourth or fifth person, when it hit me.  An ActiveX/OLE mini-Notes that works in a window?  Excuse me?  That could be big, really big.  You could surface Notes mini-apps inside Word, inside a browser.  DOLS on steroids.  Sure, it might be restricted to Windows, but so is the DHTML edit control, and getting a true Notes client ActiveX that you could stuff into little windows elsewhere, with LotusScript working and no translation between the rich text and HTML.  That seems like it has a whole heck of a lot of value above and beyond the new rich client.

The ultimate question
Serendipity... But will IBM recognize what they have stumbled on?

Copyright 2004 Genii Software Ltd.

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