IBM/Lotus has whittled its client licencing options from 11 to two and said its Domino Designer development tool would now be offered free of charge, in hopes of increasing application development on the platform.

The news came as Lotus unveiled Notes/Domino 8.5.1, a point release that includes support for real-time synchronisation with the Apple's iPhone. As part of the 8.5.1 unveiling, IBM revealed two client options that will replace the laundry list of previous options. The Messaging licence, which allows access to Domino email from any client, is $99 (£60) per user. The Enterprise licence is $159 (£95) per user and adds Mobile Connect VPN software and Domino Designer tools that give users access to any existing Notes applications and any homegrown programs.

IBM officials say giving away Designer was a major step toward expanding development on the Domino platform. The tool was originally built into the Notes client in its very earliest releases. It eventually became a separate offering that carried a price tag of $864 (£544).

"When we started to sell to IT more, when Lotus was bought by IBM, we put the Designer into a separate product and it took it out of the hands of the power users, the people who are in the line of business and really sort of isolated Notes application development to this specialised universe," says Ed Brill, director of product management for Lotus Software. "What we are really trying to do by giving it away free is democratising it again and getting it out into the hands of everybody."

Users can download Domino Designer, which is based on the Eclipse platform, free at IBM deverloperWorks. Users who want to link the software with a Domino server will have to buy a $150 (£90) license.

Other features of the 8.5.1 release include updates to Domino Designer, which adds support for Lotus XPages application model running on a Notes or mobile client. Web browser support was added in 8.5. XPages lets users develop web applications with little or no coding. XPages also can be used to convert existing Notes applications to web applications.