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Lotus may move mail to Notes

The IBM subsidiary is considering plans to nudge its huge installed base of cc:Mail users to its Notes software.

Lotus Development is considering plans to nudge its huge installed base of cc:Mail users to the company's Notes software and away from competitors' products.

The IBM (IBM) subsidiary is mulling a plan to give cc:Mail users its upcoming Notes 5.0 client free of charge, sources close to the company said today.

The company is considering the plan, along with others voiced by cc:Mail users during group sessions with company executives at its Lotusphere 98 conference in Orlando, Florida, last week.

A widely used messaging system that runs on PC local area networks, cc:Mail is not as powerful as Notes--the company's banner groupware product--which features email, document sharing, workflow, group discussions, calendar tools, and databases.

The company hopes to keep the estimated 14 million cc:Mail customers from bolting to email and messaging products from competitors including Microsoft and Netscape Communications.

"Lotus solicited cc:Mail customers to get input on what they thought would be the best way to migrate to Notes and Domino from cc:Mail," said a company spokesperson. The Notes client giveaway is "just one option users gave during that input," the spokesperson said.

The company has not made a final decision on a migration plan.

The spokesperson said another plan on the table would supply cc:Mail users with free software that lets companies migrate to Notes and Domino 4.x while keeping the cc:Mail client on some or all desktops.

Lotus is planning client middleware called R6D, which allows cc:Mail R6.x clients to connect directly to Domino servers. The 16-bit R6D client will be free to customers with maintenance contracts. Once those customers switch from cc:Mail to Notes and Domino 4.x, the move to the Notes 5.0 upgrade will come at no cost. Notes and Domino 5.0 are set to ship by the end of the year.

The two plans under consideration mesh with Lotus's plans for cc:Mail features integrated into the latest release of Notes and Domino, showing a concerted effort by Lotus to move cc:Mail users over to the groupware product.

Notes and Domino 5.0, which debuted at Lotusphere 98 last week, include a number of features intended to appeal to the cc:Mail customer base. The features include a mail retention function that enables administrators to set guidelines for deleting mail, simplified end-user filtering rules to route incoming mail, and the ability to reclaim deleted messages from the trash bin. In addition, administrators will be able to centrally store and manage user identity, allowing roaming users to access their mailboxes and desktops from any location and any client or workstation.

Both Domino 5.0 and Domino Mail Server 5.0 will feature the most popular features of cc:Mail-based administration functions.

According to Giga Information Group analyst Shilpa Agerwall, the push to move cc:Mail customers over to Notes and Domino makes sense now because of the major enhancements made to the Notes client. "It is a complete package now, with hyperlinks, calendaring, and messaging all mixed in one client, almost like a Netscape [user interface]. It's very comparable. For a lot of cc:Mail users [the free software] would make it a lot easier for them to make the transition to Notes 5.0."

Agerwall also echoed other observers who see the move as an attempt to fight off competing messaging vendors such as Novell, Netscape, and Microsoft.

Along with R6D, Lotus plans migration tools to move users of Microsoft's Mail and Exchange into Notes, according to the company.