In May, Lotus will begin beta testing IBM's Cryptolope software integrated with Domino.Broadcast, a Web publishing add-on to the company's Domino Web server software. The Cryptolope software will be offered as part of the Domino.Broadcast server at no additional charge starting in June, said Keith McCall, Lotus's director of Internet products.
The software is akin to secure envelopes, according to IBM, for distributing copyrighted material such as news stories or photographs. Upon electronic delivery, recipients must pay the publisher via electronic commerce software from CyberCash or other vendors before breaching the Cryptolope seal and reading the contents.
The bundling initiative is part of Lotus's attempt to make a splash in the emerging market for "push" technologies that bring a variety of content from the Web to users' desktops. About the same time as the Cryptolope software goes into beta, it will be joined by a flurry of add-ons to Domino.Broadcast that are designed to push out to desktops everything from software updates and text, to pay-per-view video.
Scheduled to enter beta testing in May are technologies from no less than ten developers, who are hustling to retool their software into modules for use with Domino.Broadcast. Each brings a different kind of push technology to the Domino server and all ten could conceivably be used at once by the mostly Fortune 500 companies that make up the bulk of Lotus customer base.
"All of the selections we have made complement each other, so they can be combined," McCall said. "We may end up bundling them all [with Domino]."
However, some analysts doubt IS departments will use all of the push technologies. Hubert Delany, a research director at the Gartner Group said corporate marketing departments might choose several of these channels to push information about the company out onto the World Wide Web, IS departments are unlike to adopt more than one or two of the technologies to provide internal, company-wide communication channels.
The products will first be sold as plug-ins to Domino.Broadcast. If they prove popular, Lotus may eventually sell them in bundles with Domino, as the company is already doing with PointCast's I-Server technology, according to McCall. At least initially, customers will be able to purchase the modules from Lotus or directly from the manufacturers.
Domino.Broadcast for PointCast, Lotus's first foray into the emerging market for Net distribution tools, will be sold as a single product combining the PointCast I-Server and screensaver with Lotus's Domino Web publishing tools. It will roll out on February 28 with a $1,295 price tag, McCall said.
PointCast, which makes its revenue by selling advertisements that get pushed down their broadcast channels along with news and other information for the consumer market, has built in an additional channel that IS departments can use to broadcast internal company data onto private intranets. Each company using the product will be able to choose which outside channels it wants piped to computer screens, but will not have control over the consumer advertising accompanying the data on the public channels.
The other Domino.Broadcast modules, which will be heading to market this summer, push different kinds of data and make their profits from one-time sales and subscriptions.
For example, ErgoTech, Wayfarer, and Diffusion push business information based on a subscription fees. Customers who opt for the services will purchase the Domino.Broadcast tool and the push module, and then pay the periodic fees to developers.
Meanwhile, BackWeb, a Windows-based software tool for pushing multimedia content like video, and Marimba, whose Castanet Java-based technology can push any kind of software to desktops, profit from selling their technology. The plug-ins could conceivable carry a more expensive one-time purchase price.
While the deals between Lotus and the technology makers will make push technology more accessible, Gartner Group's Delany does not expect corporate IS chiefs to start purchasing the stuff much before the end of the year.
"Most companies are still trying to figure out what push technology is," said Delany. Others, he said, are trying to distinguish between vendors. "It'll take the first half of the year for companies to get a clue" about how to implement the technology, he said.
Separately, in a move to persuade additional developers to build plug-ins to work with Domino.Broadcast, Lotus plans to publish the application programming interfaces (APIs) for Domino.Broadcast sometime in the second half of the year, McCall said.