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Microsoft, Lotus team on multimedia

Pushing aside their historical competition, the two firms announce an agreement that will make Microsoft's multimedia technology more accessible to users of Lotus software.

Pushing aside their historical competition, Microsoft and Lotus executives today announced an agreement that will make Microsoft's multimedia technology more accessible to users of Lotus software.

Under the terms of the agreement, Lotus plans to ship a version of Microsoft Windows Media Player with an upcoming version of Lotus Notes R5. Lotus and Microsoft intend to integrate upcoming versions of Windows Media Technologies with a future update version of both Notes R5 and Domino R5 via HotMedia Connect for Domino technology. Additional availability and pricing details will be announced next year, the companies said.

Lotus Notes is one of the leading software packages for messaging and managing corporate information, with more than 40 million active users. But its market share has been slipping under a fierce onslaught from rivals--including Microsoft's Exchange. The deal will allow customers to build and deploy rich multimedia applications for corporate workgroup communication, training, and media streaming on the Web.

Lotus, a unit of IBM, also forged a similar deal with RealNetworks last year. The deals with Microsoft and RealNetworks give users of Lotus products the ability to include "streaming" multimedia files. Streaming media allows users to begin seeing or hearing files almost immediately, unlike older file formats that can require lengthy download times and tie up network bandwidth.

Today's move is an anomaly for the two companies, which are rivals in the desktop productivity and groupware markets.

"We recognize that both Real and Microsoft are providing excellent multimedia solutions," Jeanette Horan, vice president of communications product development for Lotus, told Reuters. "What we're trying to do here is give customers a choice."

She said developers from Microsoft and Lotus were working together to integrate the latest version of Microsoft's client and server multimedia platform with the latest versions of the Lotus and Domino products released this year.

Companies will be able to incorporate Windows Media content into documents for use via Web browsers and Lotus Notes R5 clients for easier multimedia access and management. This platform will use core features in Notes and Domino R5 such as security and replication for graphical applications.

"This agreement builds upon both the quality and integration our shared customers have come to expect," said Anthony Bay, general manager of Microsoft's Streaming Media division. "Today's announcement demonstrates the demand for and adoption of the Windows Media Technologies platform for business applications."

The agreement with Lotus is an example of the software industry's "coopetition" model, in which companies compete in one sphere and cooperate in another, Reuters reported Bay as saying.

"If it makes sense to provide interoperability, we work to do that," he said.

Reuters contributed to this report.