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AT&T decides Notes is OK after all

If AT&T and Lotus can't be lovers, then they'll at least be friends.

If AT&T and Lotus can't be lovers, then they'll at least be friends.

The relationship between the two companies is shaping up like a soap opera. In today's episode, AT&T is re-embracing Notes technology for use with its AT&T WorldNet service for Internet access, less than a month after dumping its AT&T Network Notes project for running public Notes servers.

At the time, AT&T said it was discontinuing Network Notes because customers didn't want a proprietary environment, adding that it would focus its energies on the Internet. The announcement sparked a round of speculation about the future of Notes.

Now, AT&T is saying that it will not only accelerate its own internal deployment of Notes but that it will offer Lotus's coming Internet-savvy Notes 4.2 Server with its WorldNet Managed Internet service. That service, distinct fromthe dial-up WorldNet service offered to individual consumers last week, provides businesses with dedicated, managed access to the Net in conjunction with BBN Planet.

The Notes 4.2 Server, scheduled to be released in the third quarter, will natively support Internet technologies and protocols, such as hypertext transfer protocol, hypertext markup language, and Java. Currently, Notes servers do not function themselves as Web servers, although they can be connected to them through Lotus's InterNotes software. Notes servers can also already use TCP/IP networks such as the Internet to connect to other Notes servers.

Industry experts said the announcement was dictated by equal parts technology and diplomacy between AT&T and Lotus's parent company, IBM.

"[The announcement] was definitely politically motivated, but there's a good technological reason for [combining Notes with the Internet]," said David Coleman, founder of the Collaborative Strategies consultancy.

Coleman said that Notes provides more ways to work in collaboration with others than the Web but that it costs more than simple Net access and browsers. As a result, users are creating hybrids with Notes and Internet software that combine the best of both technologies.

"That way you can deal with replication and disconnected users. Notes has worked all this stuff out already. Netscape can't do this yet," Coleman said.

Related story:
AT&T dumps Network Notes