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IBM updates Lotus e-mail software

The new version of Big Blue's Lotus Notes software bulks up with new instant messaging, collaboration and search functions.

IBM plans to announce on Monday an upgrade to its Lotus Notes e-mail client, adding new search and instant-messaging functions.

As previously reported, the new version 6.5 of Notes/Domino Workplace is designed to allow office workers to get more done within the e-mail windows usually running on their PCs.

The upgrade includes messaging functions that are based on Big Blue's Sametime software. Office workers can see whether a colleague is available online and exchange messages within the same application window they use to check e-mail and calendar information.

IBM is accompanying the new messaging and collaboration features with a deal on related products. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, Lotus 6.5 customers with active maintenance agreements can receive a free 20-license pack for IBM Lotus Instant Messaging and a 20-user license of WebSphere Portal Express, IBM's collaboration software for small and midsize businesses.

IBM is amid a broad effort to revamp its Lotus division, focusing on integrating existing products and developing new software packages to expand Lotus' range. The company earlier this year introduced a streamlined set of office applications intended to compete with Microsoft Office and unveiled new Lotus products built around its WebSphere Web services software.

Notes 6.5 has new tools for organizing messages, including improved spam filters and the ability to tag messages that require follow-up action. The new Notes interface will include a search window that can scour corporate networks or the Web, using existing search engines as defined by the user. There's also a "launcher" window for one-click access to frequently used applications, Web sites, documents or databases.

"In today's corporate environment, businesses want their messaging solution to go beyond just e-mail," Ken Bisconti, a vice president in IBM's Lotus division, said in a statement. "They want their messaging solution to be part of a larger collaborative platform that will help drive down costs and enhance employee productivity."

Lotus Notes 6.5 will be available Sept. 30, with licenses starting at $89.82 per user.