Lotus eyes distance learning, knowledge management

Lotus Development has identified two emerging application areas - distance learning and knowledge management - as targets for increased investment in the next 18 months, according to company officials.

These application areas appear to be among the winners in an ongoing review of Lotus products being conducted by CEO Jeff Papows and the company's operating committee. Lotus plans to use additional investments to become the No. 1 or No. 2 vendor in both of these areas.

Enterprise customers can expect to see more activity and enhancement surrounding a handful of related Lotus products including: LearningSpace Anytime, which supports Web-based training; QuickPlace, a lightweight collaboration tool for extranets; and Sametime, an instant messaging application.

LearningSpace Anytime 3.0 shipped in June, and company officials say it is the only distance learning tool that supports live, self-paced and collaborative training. Lotus is pursuing a broad strategy for the server software that includes fostering course development and supporting third parties that will host courses and offer consulting services.

Lotus officials predict the market for LearningSpace Anytime will grow as large as the Notes/Domino market. A sign of the company's interest in this area was its July acquisition of Macromedia's Pathwave product, which supports self-directed learning.

Lotus hopes to attract new customers with LearningSpace Anytime, which does not require the Notes/Domino platform. Two such customers are Siemens, an electronics company that uses the software to train field sales representatives, and AstraZenica, a pharmaceutical company that uses it to provide government-mandated manufacturing training.

With QuickPlace, Lotus is providing an alternative to Notes. QuickPlace is server-based software that lets users collaborate via the Web with small teams working on short-term projects. Version 1 shipped in April and is available for a free trial at the Lotus Web site. Within the next month, QuickPlace will be available for free download through America Online and competing application service providers Interliant, IBM Global Services and Singapore One.

So far, QuickPlace has been rolled out in pilot projects only. But all of the organisations that have Domino maintenance contracts received the software for free. In response to initial customer feedback, company officials say the next version of QuickPlace will feature integration with Sametime. A QuickPlace software developers' kit is due out in beta form in October.

Sametime 1.5 shipped in July and supports instant meeting and instant messaging as well as awareness of others online. This server-based software requires no client software other than a Web browser. Future versions of the product will support audio and video.

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