Lotusphere: Staying the Course

One thing IT users won't see at Lotusphere 2000 this week is a new upgrade to Lotus' flagship Notes client or Domino server. The Cambridge, Mass.-based groupware vendor instead focused on positioning its new knowledge management tool, jump-starting stalled migrations to Notes/Domino 5.0 and staying on course.

Even with a new chief executive, Al Zollar, slated to take over Lotus in February, IBM executives plan to build on the existing strategy, rather than to make dramatic changes to the Lotus brand, officials said.

"The Lotus brand is absolutely essential to not only Lotus' success, but to IBM's success going forward," said John M. Thompson, senior vice president and group executive for software at IBM in Armonk, N.Y. "The only thing that Jeff [Papows] and I and the teams have tried to do consciously is to make sure that Lotus is seen as a key component of e-business and not something separate."

But analyst James Kobielus of The Burton Group Inc. in Midvale, Utah, said users should expect a bigger push from Lotus to position its technology within IBM's e-business strategy. "Domino is an e-business application," he said.

"E-commerce depends on enterprise application integration and tying into existing systems, like [enterprise resource planning], and that is where Domino shines."

Outgoing CEO Jeff Papows said the company also needs to focus on migrating its customers to R5, which Lotus released last spring, and extensions to the platform, like its knowledge management portal, code-named Raven.

"You can't be in a major release cycle every twelve months," Papows told Computerworld. "We tried that in the early part of the Web hysteria . . . and customers told us resoundingly that they couldn't absorb it that fast, and I think it impacted our quality three or four years ago."

He added that only 25% of the base has moved to R5 due to the late shipment of the product and concerns about year 2000 readiness.

At yesterday's opening keynote, officials demonstrated the company's forthcoming knowledge management portal, called Raven. The stand-alone product allows users to organize their e-mail and special projects on the same desktop client. It also includes an expertise locator, a search engine and instant chat. The product is due to ship later this year.

Analyst David Coleman of Collaborative Research Inc. in San Francisco said Raven "looks good," but the company needs to further assist its customers in developing collaborative applications with Domino.

Lotus will also offer its users access to Microsoft Corp.'s Outlook client from the Domino server for calendaring and messaging, officials said.

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