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IBM Corp. on Monday announced several new application development tools for its Lotus Workplace messaging and collaboration platform.

The tools, announced at IBM’s Rational Software Development User Conference in Grapevine, Texas, are the first offered for the Lotus Workplace platform. They’ll be developed by the Rational Group, but branded and sold by IBM’s Lotus Software division.

Chief among the new tools is the Workplace Builder product, which will bring application development capabilities to business users, allowing them to assemble reusable components into applications. The tool will be a part of version 2 of Lotus Workplace, expected later this quarter.

For more advanced programmers, including ISVs and business partners, IBM is offering the Workplace API toolkit and Workplace Designer. The toolkit includes sample code, documentation, APIs and service provider interfaces for integrating Workplace with other applications.

Developers using WebSphere Studio can extend Workplace by building new components that can be assembled into templates and deployed to any device or by adding collaborative functions such as e-mail or instant messages as Web services from within business applications, IBM officials said.

IBM plans to make the first toolkit available for download in the third quarter of this year, with follow-on releases likely later in the year, including a Workplace Client toolkit.

Click here to read about third-party tools that let developers use Java as an alternative to WebSphere to build Lotus Notes or Domino applications.

Workplace Designer, meanwhile, provides a visual “scripting” tool that can be used for building standalone business applications or to complement applications built with Workplace Builder.

The tool is aimed at developers who have experience with visual scripting tools, such as Lotus Domino Designer, but do not necessarily have Java skills, IBM officials said. Workplace Designer is scheduled for beta release later this year, according to IBM officials.

IBM also announced WebSphere Studio Device Developer 5.7, which is used to build Java-based applications on laptops and PCs, as well as to develop Workplace applications for cell phones, smart phones and other wireless devices. New features include life-cycle management and extension services that allow the application to run in both connected and disconnected environments. WSDD 5.7 will be available July 30, officials said.

“We’re hitting all of our targeted users whether you’re a line of business user who’s not a programmer or a Java programmer, and everything in between,” said Chris Reckling, senior product manager for Workplace application development at IBM.

Click here to read why Lotus founder Mitch Kapor believes open source will be the predominant software development model in a relatively short time.

With the exception of the browser-based Workplace Builder, all of the tools are developed on the open-source Eclipse platform, Reckling said.

IBM announced Monday that it will deliver more development tools for Workplace Client by the end of the year. This includes tools, code and education to build wireless applications for IBM Workplace Client Technology, Micro Edition, as well as interfaces for the IBM Workplace Client Technology, Rich Edition.

As for Lotus Domino users, the next release of Domino, version 7, planned for the first quarter of 2005, will include support for built-in Web services development and DB2 integration in Domino Designer, Reckling said.

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