Lotus fires back at Microsoft over Notes apps support

Lotus has no intent to back off its stated commitment to provide backward compatibility for all Notes applications regardless of reports to the contrary this week from longtime rival Microsoft.

"If others are misinformed, that's fine, but the reality is the statements I am making are the ones I am holding my team accountable to and are the ones my customers are holding me accountable to," said Lotus GM Mike Rhodin, from the annual Notes user conference in Germany.

In January, Rhodin stood in front of 6,000 attendees at the company's annual Lotusphere conference and emphatically declared that there would be continued support for all Notes applications. Lotus plans to release in the first half of 2007 its Notes "Hannover" client and Domino Next, both of which integrate with its J2EE-based Workplace collaboration platform.

"I stand behind the statements I made in January and I made them again in front of press and analysts here in Germany. I have been pretty consistent," said Rhodin.

The war of words between the IBM/Lotus and Microsoft has gone on for years as the pair has come to dominate the messaging and collaboration software market.

Last week, Bill Gates, Microsoft's chief software architect, took the latest shot while speaking at the company's first SharePoint Conference. He said Lotus would not support all Notes applications going forward and hadn't focused on productivity software since Notes creator Ray Ozzie, now with Microsoft, left the company in 1997.

Ironically, IBM/Lotus on the same day Gates made his comments released three productivity editors for its forthcoming Notes "Hannover" client that provide word processing, spreadsheet and presentation graphics capabilities. The editors natively support the XML-based OpenDocument Format (ODF) standard, which Microsoft has rejected in favor of a format it is introducing with Office 2007 later this year called Open XML.

Rhodin attributed Gates's comments concerning Ray Ozzie to marketing hype.

"The innovation work that is going on here around such things as social networking and activity-centric computing, none of that came from Ray. He has been gone for a decade."

Rhodin said the company's announcements last week, including Notes Access for SAP Solutions deepens the integration between SAP back-end systems and the Notes front-end client and Workplace. He said it shows the company is squarely out in front in terms of innovation. Notes/Domino has had SAP integration features since 1997.

The SAP announcement is part of IBM/Lotus's Project Harmony aimed at integrating Notes and Workplace with other corporate applications using Web services technology. The Notes Access for SAP Solutions, a set of templates, workflow capabilities and development tools, is similar to Microsoft's integration work with SAP called Duet.

IBM/Lotus also introduced IBM Workplace for SAP Software, which provides browser-based access to SAP data as part of applications built using Web services-based components.

IBM/Lotus plans to ship its SAP tools later this month; Microsoft's release is planned for June.

Also, IBM/Lotus deepened its relationship with Research In Motion's BlackBerry platform. The two are working on extending Notes applications to BlackBerry devices using Web services technology and the Domino 7 platform.

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