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Notes/Domino update delayed, again

Notes/Domino release 5's shipping date is delayed yet another month, despite claims by the IBM subsidiary's CEO Jeff Papows that the product would ship by the end of February.

Lotus just can't seem to get the next version of its groupware product out the door.

Notes/Domino release 5's (R5) shipping date has been delayed yet another month, despite claims by the IBM subsidiary's CEO Jeff Papows at last month's Lotusphere users conference in Orlando that the product would ship by the end of February.

The company is still working out all the kinks, bugs, and gremlins of the product before it gets sent to market, Paul Davis, a Lotus spokesman, said.

The company expects to wrap up the development cycle this week, with shipment expected four to five weeks later, Davis said.

The delay isn't surprising, said Joyce Graff, vice president and research director at Gartner Group. "It's an ongoing thing with many vendors when the release is as large and complex as this one is."

Gartner has actually been predicting a first-quarter release of R5 for months. "We expect to see it late March or early April," she said.

Although this latest delay is not the first for R5, it could be the most embarrassing, as it comes after Papows's declaration at a Lotus user meeting last month and during a full-bore advertising campaign launched late last month on TV, in newspapers, and billboards touting R5's prowess. The company has also installed large banners at its Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarter emblazoned with the "R5" logo.

The latest ship date change comes after a string of delays in the product's beta testing.

Notes 5.0, previously code-named Maui, combines Internet email, calendaring and scheduling, personal document management, news groups, browsing, and native HTML authoring into an integrated client that can access standards-based Internet servers. Notes now supports HTML 4.0 and IBM's x.509 client and server certificates.

Domino 5.0 features an improved user interface, enhanced real-time messaging features, and support for Java applets.

Lotus rolled out the second public beta of Notes/Domino R5 on November 15, after delaying the final testing phase by several months. These delays raised red flags for some observers who said it brought the fourth quarter release of the final product into question.

But Graff said most of the Lotus customers she has talked to weren't expecting to implement the product on the first day of the release anyway. "A lot of them were going to wait until the first service pack, which Lotus has told me will ship in Q2, hard on the heels of the first release."

Lotus Notes and Domino competes with Microsoft Exchange in the hotly contested market for corporate electronic mail and groupware systems.

Analysts say the latest release, backed by a strong strategy, is what Lotus needs to maintain its place in the increasingly competitive groupware market, as companies like Microsoft and Netscape begin making strides with their groupware offerings.

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