Lotus in Transition, Again, at Lotusphere 2000

LOTUSPHERE 2000 once again finds Lotus in the midst of critical changes. The company must not only address its changing management, but also clarify the path ahead for its knowledge management and collaboration products, as well as Notes and Domino.

In Orlando, Fla., this coming week, Lotus will unveil new client software for mobile and non-PC devices, as well as Web browsers, extending the reach of Domino back-end services and applications to a wider range of users, according to sources familiar with the IBM subsidiary's plans.

The mobile client software, based on the Notes client look and feel and database-access protocol, is designed for a variety of mobile and "nontraditional" platforms, including the PalmPilot, sources said.

A second client release is designed to allow users accessing Domino servers via Web browsers to work in disconnected mode, according to the sources. A series of browser plug-ins will allow browser users to leverage Domino's offline services.

To further the integration of Domino and WebSphere, Lotus and IBM have also added a single sign-on capability common to both servers, the sources explained.

Lotus is also expected to show off a revamped user interface for its knowledge management product, code-named Raven, which company officials describe as a front end for corporate information portals. It is slated for a mid-2000 release.

Show attendees will also get a glimpse of the company's application service provider (ASP) plans. Lotus has dabbled in rental applications, largely through ISPs, but the company is expected to take a more active approach.

"Lotus did announce something called ASP Pack for Domino last year, but they didn't formulate a comprehensive strategy on how they're going to tap into the ASP market," said Navi Radjou, an analyst at Forrester Research, in Cambridge, Mass. "I won't be surprised if they announce a kind of partnership where some ASPs will work with Lotus to provide a kind of collaboration solution."

Also on the Lotusphere agenda, the company will tout tools, including Java applets and APIs, for integrating SameTime synchronous communications capabilities within Domino, Notes, and HTML applications.

However, with Microsoft Exchange challenging Notes, some analysts believe Lotus cannot afford to neglect its messaging roots.

"[Microsoft] seems to be gunning for that lead," said Eric Arnum, editor of Messaging Online, in New York. "[Lotus] has been paying more attention to areas other than messaging and paying more attention to themselves being No. 1 than the possibility that there's a contender who could beat them."

IBM and Lotus officials are also expected to quell worries that Notes is becoming less strategically important in the company's overall electronic-commerce initiatives relative to WebSphere, stressing that most corporate users still need both products: WebSphere for higher-speed transactions with a priority on availability, and Notes for dealing with documents, forms, and workflow.

"It is all these things together that make up what you need in order to transform existing businesses into Web-based processes for e-businesses," said John Thompson, senior vice president and group executive of IBM's Software division. "Lotus [Notes] still figures to be one of our four most important [software] pieces."

To help in more clearly positioning Notes and WebSphere, IBM this week is expected to lay out how it will package each server with its own set of tools, services, and applications, and how each platform will work together more efficiently.

This year, much of the Lotusphere buzz surrounds CEO Jeff Papows' resignation and the direction Lotus will take as Al Zollar becomes CEO on Feb. 1.

Lotus Development Corp., in Cambridge, Mass., is at www.lotus.com.

Collaboration battle

The war is leaning in Microsoft's favor, according to a survey of vendors used for collaboration tools in Fortune 1000 companies.

* E-mail tools: Microsoft, 56 percent; Lotus, 14 percent; other, 14 percent* Calendaring tools: Microsoft, 44 percent; Lotus, 32 percent; other ,16 percent* Workflow tools: Microsoft, 4 percent; Lotus, 32 percent; other, 16 percentSource: Forrester Research

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