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Take two for Notes/Domino beta

With next week's beta of the latest version of its groupware/Web server duo Lotus is managing to quiet earlier fears that the product would be delayed.

With next week's beta of the latest version of its groupware/Web server duo Notes and Domino R5 Lotus Development is managing to quiet earlier fears that the product would be delayed.

Despite a number of hold ups, IBM subsidiary's Notes and Domino will go into its second and final testing phase next week.

The product is still due to ship by the end of this year, said Martha Tacey, senior marketing manager of Notes. "We're right on target."

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. Pricing will be announced later in the year.

Expected to ship the same time as Notes 5.0, Domino 5.0 is the latest version of Lotus's messaging and collaboration software for the Internet, intranets, and extranets, with further support for Net standards such as LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol), v3, and S/MIME, an email security standard. It also features new push services for centralized client updates and graphical planning and administrative tools.

The product was originally due in the first half of this year, and that date was later than originally planned, as well. The newest version of the product had been expected to be shipped by the end of 1997.

The company has said the delays were due to an expansion of the software's feature list in response to customer demand.

The latest version of the Notes and Domino groupware/Web server duo will feature an improved user interface, enhanced real-time messaging features, and support for Java applets, the company said.

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

Many analysts say that one of the newest enhancements that may keep Lotus at the head of the pack is the increased focus on the user interface in the new release, with particular attention to ease-of-use in order to silence complaints that the groupware is too hard to use.

For example, Lotus Notes R5 combines what users have come to rely on from earlier versions of Notes, cc:Mail, Lotus Mail, Weblicator, and Organizer, into a single client.

Tacey said the most important thing about the first beta was just to get the UI out to customers. "We made a number of enhancements on the client side."

She said in Beta 2 of Notes, customers will see a new and improved headlines feature for creating subscriptions, email lists, and filtering rules. It also has a souped-up task center, which is an "acclamation" tool for the new Notes users, which facilitates moving around the different applications of the product.

Tacey said Notes programmers also simplified the bookmarks feature of the browser-like UI. "It is more browser-like and Web-like than ever before, which is what the industry demands now."

Pricing will be released later in the year.