Code-named Domino, the software is a key part of Lotus's push to embrace Internet standards such as HTML and HTTP in its proprietary Notes environment. The emergence of Web technology as a cheaper groupware alternative to Notes put Lotus on notice last year that it needed to move quickly to provide Web links.
The company has already put an integrated Web browser in its Notes 4 client and released the InterNotes Web Publisher for posting Notes information on the Web through any stand-alone servers. Domino takes the merging of Notes and the Web a step further, fully integrating a Web server with the Notes 4 server.
The product, which Lotus has been talking about for months, is designed to let any Web browser convert Notes information to HTML on the fly, query Notes databases and other Lotus applications such as Sale Force Automation and Customer Service, and extend Notes Access Control and Notes Directory Services features to the Web documents.
The Domino beta will be available for downloading from the Lotus Web site on June 3 and will be delivered as an integrated offering with future releases of the Notes server.
At the same time that Notes is getting closer to Internet technology, Web vendors are moving to adopt advanced groupware functions in their products to provide better management and security options for intranet-based groupware.
Some vendors, including Ulysses Telemedia and Radnet, have released groupware applications that sit on top of existing Web servers, but most analysts say such offerings still fall short of the more robust capabilities of Notes.
Netscape Communications is trying to compete more directly with Notes by incorporating groupware features, such as replication and access control, from the CollabraShare groupware suite that Netscape acquired last year. The company has even struck a deal with CompuServe to offer managed groupware solutions based on Netscape and Collabra software.
But as Netscape rushes to add groupware features, it risks adding capabilities that are not supported by widely adopted Internet standards. And and compatibility with standards is a key factor that differentiates Web software from closed systems such as Notes.
"Netscape is doing everything they can to comply with standards, but when you're in a competitive marketplace you get out ahead of that," said Jamie Lewis, president of consultancy The Burton Group. "There's a lot of things Netscape is doing that isn't based on Internet standards, but that's to be expected. The key is that Netscape is trying to be very open about what it's doing."