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Lotus readies groupware for Linux

Lotus says it will demo the Linux version of its Domino Web server, giving the first public peek at its latest weapon for fighting Microsoft in the heated groupware market battle.

Lotus is pushing ahead with its plan to develop a Linux version of its groupware package Notes and Domino.

Lotus said it will next week demo the Linux version of its Domino Web server at a Lotus developers' conference in San Francisco, giving the first public peek at its latest weapon for fighting Microsoft in the heated groupware market battle.

The Linux version of Domino is expected to ship by year's end. Domino already ships in versions for Windows NT and many variations of Unix.

As earlier reported, Lotus president Jeff Papows announced in January that his company was planning to jump on the Linux bandwagon.

Linux, a Unix-like operating system that runs on almost any processor, began as a noncommercial programming project but is entering the for-profit landscape. In the last year, the operating system has been embraced by many big-name hardware and software companies as an alternative to Microsoft's Windows.

Among the big players in the enterprise groupware market, Lotus is the only one making noise so far about porting their products to Linux. Microsoft, which sells Windows, has no plans to support the open source operating system.

A Novell spokesperson said the company, the third horse in the groupware race behind Microsoft, has no definite plans to provide a Linux version of its groupware product GroupWise.

Beginning last year, Lotus marketing executives began getting more and more requests from business partners asking the IBM subsidiary to take a look at porting its Domino Web server to Linux. The volume and frequency of the requests began to pick up later in the year, said Don Harbison, a Domino marketing product manager.

"It is an excellent opportunity to focus on small business at the grassroots level," he said. "But we're beginning to see a demand for Linux in our traditional enterprise accounts. Not at the CIO level, but on a department level. They're looking for collaborative applications based on Linux."

He also said that the commercial distributors of Linux, like Red Hat and Caldera, are looking to package their technology with collaborative database servers.

The latest version of Domino, Release 5.0, includes enhanced real-time messaging features and support for Java applets. In this release, the messaging platform now supports the SMTP internet mail standard.

Eric Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research, said corporate users are looking to Linux as a base for Web servers, but not for enterprise-wide applications.

"This is still a smart move because there is some demand out there and Lotus is looking to fill it," he said.

This may even be a thorn in Microsoft's side. "Exchange only runs on NT. Any chance to provide an alternative is good," he added.

In related news, Lotus is also expected to roll out a new migration strategy at PC Expo next week called Super.move. Although Lotus is holding out until next week before making any comment, a Web site dedicated to the new strategy describes Super.move as a worldwide Lotus initiative designed to provide customers with an a means to move from their current email system to Notes and Domino.

Super.Move includes Notes and Domino software products, migration and coexistence tools, design and implementation services, education, and support, according to the Web site.