Lotus is developing a set of extensions for Domino 5.0 that will allow the server to function as the collaboration engine for Microsoft's client software and productivity applications.
The company has launched its Bluejay Project, which is designed to match the collaboration environment that Microsoft is building with the Exchange 2000 server, Office productivity applications and Outlook. Microsoft is touting the integration of the three products as the foundation for building collaborative applications, a development area that has long been a sweet spot for Lotus.
Lotus officials say they recognise that most of their users run Microsoft Office - which includes the Outlook client - on their corporate desktops. The company wants to keep those customers on the Domino server and not have them defect to Exchange.
"I don't see Bluejay as state-of-the-art technology, it's just making sure the horse race stays neck and neck," says Jim Kobielus, an analyst with The Burton Group. "Lotus is intent on being able to further integrate Domino into the Microsoft environment. They are positioning Domino as an application server for customised applications with rich presentation and a range of connections to back-end systems."
Lotus has been working diligently along those lines to expand the number of client options so users are not locked into Notes.
Bluejay is focused on four core components, including the Domino Net Store - the counterpart to Microsoft's Web Store in Exchange 2000. The Net Store allows Office to use Domino as its file store, and presents Domino databases, folders and file attachments in a Windows Explorer interface.
"That lets you bring Domino qualities to Office," says Jeanette Medlin, director of product marketing for Lotus. "You have replication, full-text search, workflow and security."
Bluejay will also include iNotes for Outlook, which adds Notes replication features to the Microsoft client. Thereplication support allows the offline use of mail and calendar features through Outlook before synchronising changes to Domino. Bluejay will also include seven Component Object Model (COM) objects that make it easier for developers using Microsoft tools to incorporate Domino services into their applications. The COM objects include mail, directory, workflow, collaboration and views.
Another key of Bluejay is a connector for SQL Server 7.0 and Access 2000, providing native connectivity as opposed to the Open Database Connectivity interface Domino now supports.
Lotus officials claim users can add collaboration services to Office and Outlook without having to deploy Windows 2000, Active Directory and Exchange 2000. Lotus' Medlin says Domino runs on a variety of platforms, including Linux and Windows NT. The Bluejay extensions will initially run only on NT, but will be ported to other platforms later this year.
Microsoft officials were quick to say Lotus is playing catch-up.
Chris Baker, product manager for Exchange, said: "They finally realised that they had to integrate with Office and Outlook. Well we made that bet a long time ago.
"It makes me wonder what success or failures they have had with their own Domino R5 client. But what I really have to question is whether Outlook and Domino is on par with Outlook and Exchange."