As you probably know, Ed is responsible for the Product Management of the Notes/Domino family. He asked for a show of hands for who was using 8.5.3, and was genuinely surprised when just about every hand in a large (1000+ people) audience went up. So, if the take-up of new releases is that good, I'm not going to dwell on 8.5.3, as for many of us it's already old news.
But for those of you who aren't fully exploiting 8.5.3, it's worth noting that in Ed's session, he had a couple of guest speakers from Petrobras in Brazil, who discussed their 8.5.x upgrade. They showed some amazing numbers about the savings they made by moving servers up to 8.5.x, consolidating in a single data centre, setting up DAOS and transaction logging, and using local-managed replica mail files.
Have a look for Ed's INV101 session slides at Slideshare, and see for yourselves the savings that Petrobras made.
While each member so far of the 8.5 family has been a feature release, the next one, 8.5.4, will, they say, be a maintenance only release containing bug fixes and SPRs. Before it appears, there's likely to be an 8.5.3 Upgrade Pack 2 to follow the recently released Upgrade Pack 1, which contained new XPage components for Designer and the server pulled in from OpenNTF.
Upgrade Pack 2 will contain more of these, and 8.5.4 will roll those all up into a new release along with the bug fixes. It will also be accompanied, or possibly followed, by "Lotus Notes Social Edition". This is an additional socially-oriented feature pack, and because it's not being billed as a new release, IBM hope it will be more readily adopted by customers than would be a "9.0" release.
These features and mostly visible in the Notes and iNotes clients, and the few changes that there are in Domino are there to support these Social Edition components.
This all starts to implement the Project Vulcan that we've heard a lot about at the last two Lotuspheres (and a lot less about at this one). Project Vulcan is about convergence of function and convergence of UI across the entire IM collaboration product, if you remember.
And in all this there are one or two surprises, too
The core of the Social Edition for the Notes and iNotes clients is the addition of an OpenSocial container. That in itself requires additional changes to Domino, mainly to support a single sign-on mechanism that will be around SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language), and the use of OAuth for authorization.
The OpenSocial container provides a standards-based framework in which key Social constructs such as the Activity Stream can be loaded. Being standards-based, it provides the plumbing required for additional features. The two that were mostly shown off were Activity streams, where all your Connections input (assuming you have Connections installed, of course) such as notifications, status updates and so on are interleaved with your inbox, so that you have one place to work with it all. The other was the Embedded Experience, whereby mail can carry links and other information as part of it's MIME content, so that the mail itself can effectively carry live references and links into other applications and then execute them as required right in the context of the email.