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Lotus tests SmartSuite upgrade

The IBM subsidiary begins beta testing the new version of its office application suite.

IBM subsidiary Lotus Development has begun beta testing the new version of its office application suite.

Due for general shipment in June, SmartSuite Millennium Edition will contain new versions of WordPro, the 1-2-3 spreadsheet, Approach database, Organizer personal information manager, Freelance Graphics, and speech recognition technology for 1-2-3 and WordPro. It also includes data sharing capabilities with eSuite Workplace, the company?s Java enabled productivity environment for network computers and personal computers.

In addition, the new version of SmartSuite features FastSite, a new Web publishing application that allows end-users to take files created in word processing, spreadsheet, and other desktop applications and batch publish them to the corporate intranet.

"You don?t have to deal with tools, just your word processor, to post them on the Intranet," said Bill DeStefanis, director of Internet suite marketing at Lotus.

Lotus is touting FastSite as a way to take the tediousness out of converting documents from proprietary format into HTML, and also as a way to limit the bottlenecks that occur at the Webmaster?s desk when all those documents are submitted for posting.

Analysts see the newest feature to SmartSuite as a good move by Lotus.

"For a home worker or even small businesses [FastSite] could be very valuable. You can build your own good looking Web site with little technical expertise," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group. "In some markets this could provide a competitive advantage for Lotus."

With the latest 1-2-3 spreadsheet, Lotus has added Web tables that allow users to access and present Web data in a spreadsheet. For example, a user can take stock quotes, put them in the spreadsheet and link them to a Yahoo business site.

SmartSuite Millennium Edition is compatible with Microsoft Office 97 applications and is XML, as well as HTML, compliant. It also features connection capabilities for enterprise applications developed by SAP and PeopleSoft, DeStefanis said.

Enderle said the compatibility with Office 97 is also a good improvement in SmartSuite-Millennium Edition. "They did the right thing. A lot of reasons some companies removed SmartSuite from their offices was because it couldn?t [share] files with Office. [Lotus] has fixed that with this release."

Lotus competes with Microsoft and Corel in the office application suite market.

Along with the SmartSuite package, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Lotus also develops eSuite, a Java enabled office suite. DeStefanis said the two do not serve the same users, despite what some observers have said since eSuite?s release late last year.

SmartSuite Millennium Edition will sell on the same pricing model as its predecessor, SmartSuite 97, DeStefanis said. The suite will retail for $399, with upgrades from previous versions, or from competitive products, priced at $149.