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Lotus details eSuite upgrade

The IBM subsidiary releases eSuite WorkPlace and DevPack 1.5 during Lotusphere 98, showing developers and customers new features.

    As expected, Lotus Development today rolled out the latest version of its Java-based desktop applications suite.

    The IBM subsidiary released eSuite WorkPlace and DevPack 1.5 during today's kick-off of Lotusphere 98 in Berlin, showing European developers and customers new features. It also highlighted a focus on the PC while ensuring that it's not leaving thin-client schemes behind.

    Coming almost a full quarter before the release of Microsoft's Office 2000 desktop application suite, eSuite WorkPlace and DevPack 1.5 bring together those features and enhancements that the company couldn't put into the first release of the product line, Lotus executives told News.com last month.

    And despite a so-far lackluster customer reception for network computers, Lotus insists the network computer is still around and it plans to provide desktop applications for them.

    "We have...significantly increased the value of eSuite WorkPlace by making it available on PCs as well as NCs and making it easier for users to share files and data with colleagues using traditional office suite software," Lynne Capozzi, vice president of development for Lotus's Internet Applications, said in a statement today.

    The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software company said the product line features eSuite Workplace, a desktop package of applets including email, a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, chart presentation graphics, and an address book, which can run on any device that supports Java, including NCs and PCs. Although not in this version, future releases of the product will include some of the new real-time technologies called SameTime, Lotus told News.com in August.

    Those using WorkPlace can also access existing business applications through "terminal emulation," or a browser, or both, such as Internet Explorer (PC platform only) or Sun's HotJava browser.

    WorkPlace also features support for 32-bit Windows-based PCs including Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT Workstation 4.0; file viewing and import and export compatibility with Lotus SmartSuite, Microsoft Office, and other popular desktop applications; multiple language support; new APIs for third-party Java applet support; and further IBM Network Station administration and integration features.

    The new version of eSuite WorkPlace will feature a spell checker in the word processing applet, a feature for cutting and pasting content between applets, and better computing capabilities in the spreadsheet component, allowing users to point and click on individual blocks frames in the spreadsheet and make new calculations, according to Lotus.

    The product line also includes eSuite DevPack, a variety of applets and tools that allows developers to create Internet applications. DevPack also includes LotusInfoBus, a JDK (Java Developer Kit) standard mechanism for data-sharing between applets jointly developed with Java kingpin Sun.

    DevPack also includes better work-connections with Notes Designer for Domino 4.6.2 and support for a larger collection of "additional builders tools;" enhanced support for Java development tools, specifically IBM's Visual Age for Java 2.0 and Symantec's Visual Caf? 2.5; the new DevPack eSuite Fusion Connection kit which provides support in NetObjects Fusion, a Web development toolset that allows a DevPack applet to be visually configured and added to a Web page.

    eSuite is an attempt by Lotus to give corporate network users a slimmed-down set of applications that provide only the functions absolutely necessary to a user's routine tasks.

    The applications are Java "beans," which means they adhere to the JavaBeans standard and can be "glued" together using Java development tools to make new applications. Each bean container can hold other beans, so a word processor document could host a spreadsheet component, for example.

    Although discussion continues about the future of network computing, Lotus insists it is committed to the idea. This makes sense given that the company is a subsidiary of IBM, which has made a huge investment developing both a strategy and a product line based on network computing.

    But the company is clearly making an effort to not limit itself to the platform. With this release, Lotus built its product to run on the Windows desktop, as well as Windows NT.

    WorkPlace has an estimated price of $79 per user through the Lotus volume pricing program, Lotus Passport. DevPack is available for an estimated price of $1,495, through Lotus PassPort, and a single developer license is priced at $99, the company said.