NEW YORK (06/27/2000) - Bowing to the inevitable, Lotus Development Corp. announced Tuesday that it is teaming up with Into Networks Inc. to make SmartSuite applications available on a rental basis over the Internet.
Lotus, the IBM Corp. subsidiary that puts out the Notes groupware application, said that sometime in the late third quarter or early fourth quarter, SmartSuite applications including 1-2-3 version 9.5, Organizer version 5, and WordPro Version 9.5 will be available at Into's PlayNow.com Web site.
Users will be able to rent the Lotus applications for US$2.99 for 48 hours.
Into also gives users the option of paying $5.99 per month to get all of PlayNow's Lifestyle Channel, which includes the Home Office section of its Web site within which the Lotus applications will be placed. One catch is that users need to have broadband connection to the Internet -- meaning, for example, a cable modem for home users or a T1 line for businesses -- to use the applications.
The idea of renting applications on the Internet is expected to attract not only consumers and small and home-based business users, but larger companies as well.
"If you have a small business and just need a spreadsheet at the end of the month to do your books, this is the type of thing you'd want to do," said one Lotus official.
But larger companies could make use of the service as well. Many departments in larger companies might not want to license the full suite of Lotus applications for their staffers, Lotus officials said. For these companies, having employees occasionally log on to the Web to use a spreadsheet might make economic sense, Lotus officials said.
"I'd agree that the market for this type of service is pretty broad," said Lew Hollerbach, a senior analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, Massachusetts.
"It could be a more efficient way for large companies to provide productivity applications to their employees."
Lotus is not the first major software company to announce such a deal.
Microsoft Corp. plans to give users access to its Office suite of applications through its bCentral Web site aimed at small businesses, and Sun Microsystems Inc. started offering StarOffice application suite over the Web last year.
"You can't be a software company these days and not think about offering applications this way, over the Web," Hollerbach said. What Lotus is doing with Into is a way of attracting businesses that are interested in the application service provider (ASP) model of accessing applications. ASPs typically host and manage applications for a business, letting the business's employees access the applications over the Web.
"With Into, Lotus is letting someone that knows networking and the hosting business take care of the hosting end of things, which is smart, because software developers should stick to doing what they do best -- writing code," Hollerbach said.
For its part, Lotus plans to announce next month that it will offer other applications, including the SameTime messaging software and QuickPlace -- a "teamware" product designed to help work groups coordinate projects over the Internet.
Lotus also said the deal with Into is not exclusive; the company will most likely work with other applications hosting and management providers in the future.
Into can be reached in Cambridge, Massachusetts at +1-617-583-4100 or at http://www.intocorp.com/. Lotus, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can be reached at +1-617-577-8500 or http://www.lotus.com/.