Lotus Bluejay prepares for flight

A little more than a year after Lotus Development rolled out Notes Release 5, the company is preparing an extension of its Domino messaging and Web application platform, code-named Bluejay, which will feature a healthy dose of collaboration and interoperability between Lotus Domino and the Microsoft's Office environment.

Bluejay, scheduled for release this fall, is made up of four components: a Domino Network File Store for sharing files, an OLE/DB connector for Lotus products, Domino Collaboration Objects for application developers, and iNotes, which provides offline access to Domino applications. The collection is targeted at customers who are "more focused on Microsoft than perhaps our traditional customers," said Ed Brill, senior product marketing manager at Lotus. Brill added that each of Bluejay's pieces is either in beta form now, or "close to it."

"We've tried to engineer the tightest integration between collaboration and messaging that we possibly can [in Bluejay]," Brill said. "Lotus is, in many ways, making sense for Microsoft customers rather than being a separate option."

Domino Network File Store, often called Domino Net Store, allows access to Domino database files from Windows applications so that users can save and read Domino files in a Microsoft environment. The Domino Net Store requires no workstation software and includes file-replication features, Brill said, noting that it will run on Windows NT and Windows 2000 first before being ported to other platforms.

"We're expanding the openness of the Domino store to Windows and Office files," Brill explained, adding that Domino Net Store also will link NT and Domino security so that Domino automatically will recognized a user who has logged in to NT.

The OLE/DB connector will be a native connector for Domino Enterprise Connection Services and Lotus Enterprise Integrator, enabling connections to SQL Server 7 and Access 2000 and providing "more fidelity and better performance in going against the [OLE] database natively" when integrating enterprise and collaborative data, Brill said.

As the application-development piece of Bluejay, Domino Collaborative Objects "encapsulates seven to 10 of the most common functions developers are using on the COM platform" and includes COM components for features such as mail, workflow, and administration/security, Brill said. With Domino Collaborative Objects, Microsoft developers will be able to integrate Domino into their collaborative applications and to build in multiple environments.

Lotus also will include all iNotes component code in Domino when Bluejay ships, Brill said. The iNotes offering, announced in January at Lotusphere 2000 and expected to ship this summer, is a browser-accessible Notes product that also offers offline access to Domino applications and marked a first step in Lotus-Microsoft interoperability by allowing access to Microsoft Outlook.

The iNotes' Access for Microsoft Outlook component entered its first limited beta tests last week and will ship by the time Bluejay ships, according to Brill. Lotus Mobile Notes 1.1, which ports Notes to smartphones and other handhelds, including Palm Computing devices, will likely ship at the end of June, while the major release, Mobile Notes 2.0, will ship by the end of the year.

Brill expects Bluejay to provide a bridge for companies facing a Lotus vs. Microsoft technology decision in the messaging and collaboration arena.

"We need to put aside the fact that we're Lotus and they're Microsoft and really work for integration," Brill added. "It's in our customers' best interest."

Despite recent concerns that Microsoft Exchange might be catching up to Notes in the marketplace, Brill said the increased level of interoperability between Lotus and Microsoft products was by no means an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type of strategy on Lotus' part. Brill touted Bluejay as "a better fit" than Exchange 2000 because of its collaborative applications, mobility, and lack of migration worries.

"Customers don't want to fight the political battle of what's on the client," Brill said. "The value is on the server. Supporting Outlook [and other Microsoft technologies] is one of many ways of getting to Domino."

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