I hear it all the time, there have been blogs and lengthy discussions about it. Just defining exactly what Lotus Notes/Domino is can be difficult and is part of the reason I think some organizations and technical professionals have difficulty adopting it. It doesn't have to be difficult. I am going to try to explain it here, from my perspective anyway, but remember I already said it is difficult to do.
First - it is NOT an email system, in the sense that, that is all it does. Environments using it for just email are missing out on so much!
I like to think of Lotus Notes/Domino as a Collaboration Toolbox. Unlike Lotus' competitors, who seem good at releasing individual collaboration "tools", the Lotus Notes/Domino product has evolved into a complete collection of collaboration tools in one package.
Anyone would be foolish to say they have the only tool anyone will ever need - and the Lotus Notes/Domino environment proves that IBM Lotus would not try to do that (but no one in their right mind would). They have, instead focused on making the Lotus Notes/Domino environment adhere as close to open standards as possible making Lotus Notes/Domino a tool that can be better leveraged as your specific needs require.
For example, you might compare most competitors in the collaboration space to a toolbox that has a hammer, a couple of screw drivers, a razor knife, and a small wrench set. True, you could get a fair amount done, and you will have the tool you need in most cases, and there is an ability to improvise/modify the tools if necessary. But you can only do any of this in the tool shed - you can't use them anywhere else.
The Lotus Notes/Domino collaboration toolbox has a number of hammers, screw drivers, cutting implements, full wrench set (metric and US), plus a socket wrench set, drill, sander, and so on. Also, you have multiple tools that can be used to improve the provided tools to adjust for your needs. Also, you can use this toolbox almost anywhere.
To clarify the illustration of the two toolboxes above, lets compare Microsoft's collaboration toolbox with Lotus Notes/Domino's.
In the Microsoft world you have disparate systems that make up their collaborative environment. For example, Exchange for email and C&S, Sharepoint for collaboration/document management, Communication server for IM/Chat, SQL for data storage, IIS for web presentation (which Sharepoint and Exchange both rely on), and then the underlying OS (the tool shed) MS Windows server. For the most part all of these require their own licenses as well and are tied tightly into an Active Directory structure for security. If you want to modify any of these, you can, using MS Development tools like .NET, or by consuming Webservices.
To sum up, collaboration products are suppose to make interactions of people and business groups easier. There is no way any one company can provide a perfect solution for everyone, so have a product that enables your team with the most flexibility to meet the needs of your users/environment is critical. So which toolbox would you rather have?
What is Lotus Notes and Domino? Collaboration Toolbox?