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Lotus builds Net store

The IBM subsidiary launches an online storefront that displays and details Lotus products and directs potential buyers to resellers for purchase.

Lotus Development today launched LotusStore, an online storefront that displays and details Lotus products and directs potential buyers to resellers for purchase.

Customers also can buy Lotus software directly through the Web site.

The IBM subsidiary also is using the store as a showcase for its own Domino.Merchant technology, the company said.

LotusStore is designed as a centralized source for Lotus products, the company said. When users select a product, the first purchase option is "Purchase from a Lotus Reseller," which will link prospective buyers to a list of Lotus resellers. While software also can be bought directly from Lotus via LotusStore, customers are offered lower prices by purchasing products directly from resellers.

"Basically the intent is to provide another asset for our reseller community, providing a showcase of our products," a Lotus spokesman said. "We're providing a stream of qualified sales leads to our customers."

But analysts wonder how successful the new program will be for Lotus, pointing to the success of Apple Computer's online store, which it recently said received a record $1.9 million in orders in a single 24-hour period, driven by sales of its new PowerBook G3 notebooks.

Microsoft also plans to launch a site dedicated to resellers. Nitro, the new program that will be a successor to a prototype store called ByteComp.com, has so far received mixed reviews from analysts. Nitro is scheduled to launch in August.

"It's important for Lotus to do this," said Erica Rugullies, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "It's certainly the way things are going now--using the Web to grow sales. Whether this is the right way for Lotus remains to be seen."

One thing Rugullies pointed out is the increased chance for channel conflict the new program may create because customers will be able to buy directly from Lotus instead of channel partners, who also sell online. "This definitely is a good thing for Lotus to be doing, but [channel conflict] is one drawback."

LotusStore is based on the latest version of Domino.Merchant 2.0, which was shipped last month. The package provides electronic commerce application templates including an online storefront, multiple product catalogs, and real-time, workflow-augmented order processing features.