Lotus Cedes Desktop to Microsoft Office

Lotus Development Corp. is trying to more directly position its Domino server as a back-end messaging and collaboration alternative to Microsoft Corp.'s forthcoming Exchange 2000.

The strategy acknowledges the defeat of the Notes desktop client by the popular Microsoft Outlook client, yet allows Lotus to focus on back-end Domino 5.0 enhancements that better hook into Microsoft applications.

Officials at Lotus said the new set of features is aimed at eliminating integration pitfalls between Domino R5 and Microsoft technologies.

The set of enhancements, dubbed "Bluejay," includes support for Outlook mail and calendaring, replication of Internet Explorer and a new Domino Network File Store for accessing Windows applications from Domino databases. Bluejay also includes native connectivity to Microsoft SQL Server 7 and Access 2000 and seven new Component Object Model components for integrating with Microsoft applications. Bluejay is due this fall, around the time Exchange 2000 is expected to ship.

The Domino Effect

Tom Austin, vice president of research and strategic practices at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, said offering wide support for Microsoft technologies gives Lotus an advantage over Exchange 2000, which doesn't provide the same connections to competing systems, like Domino.

"[Lotus'] internal strategy is that Domino will do a better job of supporting Outlook users than Exchange does, so the question is [whether it can] really deliver on that implied promise," said Austin. "That constitutes an interesting alternative for people with both Exchange and Domino in their shop, because it will keep people on Outlook but move the back end to Domino. And Microsoft has no such strategy."

Enrique Crespo, manager of MIS at industrial machines maker Ingersoll-Rand Co. in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, said better integration with competing technologies like Microsoft's only improves the scope and appeal of Notes/Domino.

"Lotus wants to give users the quick-and-easy approach of Microsoft, so why reinvent the wheel and add in new stuff [to the Notes client]? Just give better access to Microsoft," said Crespo. "The things that they are coming out with now [to integrate with Microsoft technologies], we don't necessarily need, but if we were to make an acquisition it would be nice to have them in place."

Last May, Microsoft announced that Exchange 2000 would feature a digital dashboard, which is a desktop portal and Web-based file store; wider support for mobile and wireless devices; and tighter integration to SQL Server. Lotus has also announced its own desktop Portal Builder template for Notes R5.