Lotus halts eSuite development

Rumours of the death of Lotus Development's eSuite desktop software line proved true yesterday as the company confirmed it has pulled the plug on marketing and development.

The Java-based set of business productivity applets that comprise the eSuite line "has not done as well in the market as the company had hoped", said Paul LaBelle, a Lotus spokesman. About 50 Lotus business partners globally have developed applications on or with eSuite "and a small handful of end users are using it", but otherwise the line has languished.

The line, released with a splash in late 1997, was designed for the network computing model, which has users of desktop PCs or network computers accessing servers to download applets for desktop machines, as needed. The idea is that users won't need more expensive computers loaded with software, but will instead need only an internet browser for use on machines that cost as little as a few hundred dollars. Dramatic drops in the prices of PCs seem to have derailed the market for network computing, which many users resisted because they want to have software on their desktops.

LaBelle said he wouldn't comment on why eSuite didn't sell as well as Lotus had hoped. While marketing and development for the line will end, Lotus will release eSuite Workplace 2.0 by the end of next month and will continue to support the product line for existing customers until January 2001, LaBelle said. Workplace offers access to e-mail, Web browsing, file management and business productivity applets, including a word processor, calendar, address book and spread sheet.

Technology used in eSuite will be integrated into other Lotus software in the company's three key areas -- collaborative computing, distributed learning and knowledge management, LaBelle said. Which technology will be integrated and into what lines has yet to be decided.

About 200 Lotus employees worldwide work on developing and marketing eSuite and 50 of them will stay with the line to offer continued support and service, with 150 being moved to other areas in Lotus and its parent, IBM.

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