Buzz Likely to Be Papows Departure

The news that everyone will probably be talking about at the annual Lotusphere trade show in Orlando next week already happened. Lotus Development Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Papows pre-empted show news when he announced last week that he is resigning as of Feb. 1.

Al Zollar, general manager of the IBM Corp. network computing software division will take over as Lotus chief. IBM owns the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software maker. Analysts and industry observers have said that Zollar's appointment is an indication that IBM is going to become more of a presence within Lotus, which is going head-to-head competitively with its Notes groupware product against Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange software.

Microsoft officials like to point out that IBM is a much bigger company, and analysts who follow Lotus think that IBM is about to pick up that mantle with regard to Lotus, emphasizing the connection and the power of the parent company. Indications of whether that is true could well emerge at Lotusphere, which opens Sunday and runs through Thursday, if IBM takes on a larger presence than in the past.

Papows' timing certainly seems strange in light of its proximity to Lotusphere and the likelihood that his news would steal center stage. He typically delivers the opening keynote address, and his speech Monday morning undoubtedly will be even more crowded than usual. Lotus executives will face the press Monday afternoon in a session that could be particularly noteworthy.

Although Papows was on the media hot seat last year after a stinging investigative story in the Wall Street Journal alleged that he fabricated parts of his resume and his military and personal history, that brouhaha died down quickly, and the company wound up having another good year.

Lotus is expected to reveal that its base of Notes users soared again, reaching as many as 50 million. Analysts count the number as somewhat lower, but say that nonetheless, the software continues to be a big seller.

Show visitors next week can expect to hear updates regarding R/5, the latest release of Notes (and perhaps also will be able to get some help with ongoing bugs, including slowness and problems with multitasking), and the future of Notes, as well as a Domino update.

Other expected news will involve the company's knowledge management suite, code-named Raven, expected out by mid year. At a recent meeting with IDG reporters and editors, company officials said that Raven's user interface is being redesigned. A look at the new design could come next week.

Raven was unveiled by Papows at Lotusphere in Berlin last October. The basic idea behind the software suite is to allow workers to find information sources and data using content tracking and analysis techniques. Lotus claims that the product will save time -- and users at the show in Germany said they were looking forward to giving it a try.

Lotus also plans to offer updates about its e-business platform and provide insight into what clients are doing with the company's products.

Otherwise, various third-party vendors will be making announcements at the show regarding software applications for the Domino platform and for Notes. Many of those announcements will relate to enhancements of existing products.

Exhibitors at the show will include Percussion Software Inc., UUNet Inc., Casahl Technology Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co., EntreVision Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc. and Motorola Inc.

Lotus, in Cambridge, can be reached at +1-617-577-8500 or at http://www.lotus.com/.

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