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Lotus hopes for Domino effect

Lotus will rename its popular Notes groupware after its new Web server, a move intended to remind customers and competitors that the groupware pioneer is embracing open Internet standards.

    IBM (IBM) subsidiary Lotus Development president Jeff Papows today announced plans to rename its popular Notes groupware after its new Web server, a move intended to remind to customers and competitors that the groupware pioneer is embracing open Internet standards.

    Papows said the Domino Web Server will become the centerpiece of what the company has been calling Notes 4.5. The product is currently in beta testing, and will head to market before the end of the year. The new version will officially be called Domino 4.5 powered by Notes.

    "The name Domino simply heralds in a new phase of the product line," said Papows. It calls attention to the Internet features which the server software brings to Notes, he added.

    Despite the fanfare, Eric Brown, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. said today's announcement retells the "story we've been hearing for the last year." Yet, Brown called the name change a smart move that will help the company harness enthusiasm among information systems executives for the new capabilities Domino brings to Notes

    "Notes has a bad reputation as a closed, costly, and complex product," he said. "They have to create a new brand around the Internet and open standards."

    Papows seemed intent on reminding customers and competitors--namely Microsoft and Netscape Communications-- that the company will defend its groupware market dominance. Papows said "the next stage of the revolution is going to be about Web servers." He vowed to continue to "set the bar for what customers expect for collaboration software."

    Lotus, which pioneered groupware, has been fighting off competition from Microsoft, Novell, and a number of Internet-based start-ups in the past year. Netscape, which plans to launch new SuiteSpot and Communicator groupware products, puts added pressure on the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Lotus.

    "They have to get used to competing instead of owning the groupware space," as they have until now, said Brown. He said the company's success will hinge upon adoption of open standards.

    Eileen Rudden, a Lotus senior vice president, said the product already supports Net standards, including HTTP, SMTP, IIOP protocols, and will add native support for HTML and MIME next year.

    "It's a three-horse race in the intranet market," Rudden said referring to Lotus, Microsoft, and Netscape. She said Lotus's efforts this year to open up its server technology, as well as its more recent initiatives to open up its client to Internet standards, will help the company maintain market dominance.

    Several previously-developed client-side applications that Lotus is preparing to launch into a wider market include new Notes mail access and Weblicator, a tool that works with standard browsers to bring them Note's data storage and replication. The Weblicator will be available in the first quarter of next year for $29 per user and will let browser users store online information, work with it offline, and then relaunch it onto the Web or share it with coworkers.

    Early next year, the company will also start selling Notes mail access licenses for $35 apiece, enabling companies that use the groupware to give associates who do not have a Notes client to set up email boxes on the Domino server.

    Papows also introduced Domino 4.5 Advanced Services, which will make widely available features that Lotus has been selling to the telecommunications industry for two years, including server clustering, data partitioning, and billing applications. The Advanced Services package will be ready this quarter and will cost $1,000 per Notes server.

    "That's a lot of value for a thousand bucks," said Brown.