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Lotus readies Organizer upgrade

Lotus tries to whip up support for its Organizer 97 electronic calendar which links up with the company's flagship Notes groupware.

    IBM (IBM) subsidiary Lotus Development in March will ship a group-ready version of its Organizer 97 electronic calendar, linking the application with the company's flagship Notes groupware in an effort to increase sales.

    The 32-bit Organizer G.S., in development under the code-name Dante, is designed for group scheduling. Like the Organizer 97 Web Calendar, which Lotus introduced around the middle of last year, the software is part of the company's move to offer a calendar that takes advantage Internet standards.

    As was the case with Web Calendar, Organizer G.S. boasts support for the vCalendar specification, which allows users to receive and respond to invitations electronically. It also adds vCard support, which, along with a scanner, allows users scan business cards to build an electronic rolodex.

    Hyperlinking powers let users jump to Web pages from the calendar. When used with the accompanying server software on a Notes' Domino Web server, people can share their appointment schedules and files. Users can make the schedules read-only or assign passwords to colleagues so that they may schedule meetings electronically. The system updates itself to reflect new or canceled meetings each time users log on.

    Organizer G.S. uses the same user interface as the calendaring and scheduling tool included with Notes 4.5, the latest version of Lotus's groupware. The company hopes to sell Organizer G.S. to groupware customers to engage more employees in electronic agenda planning

    The strategy reflects the checkered history of calendaring and scheduling software: While long a groupware staple, the feature has not been very popular with the rank and file of groupware users. Ian Campbell, an analyst with International Data Corporation said the calendaring and scheduling is a thorny issue. "Most people just don't want to use electronic calendars," he said.

    However, Lotus said it has sold 12 million copies of calendaring and scheduling software over the years and will introduce Organizer G.S. with especially low pricing in an effort to win new customers. Users of earlier versions of Organizer may obtain the new version free of change, according to Lotus.

    Lotus has not disclosed pricing for Organizer G.S. The current version of Organizer 97 introduced this summer, is priced at $79.