IBM's Lotus Software unit is retooling its family of e-mail, messaging and collaboration software with a big dose of Java.
At its annual Lotusphere developer's conference this week, Lotus will announce plans to rebuild its technology to conform to Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), Sun Microsystems' specification for Java software built by Sun and other makers, such as Oracle, IBM and BEA Systems.
In doing so, Lotus will make its technology--from e-mail to instant messaging and videoconferencing software--available as components that can link to other software, said Scott Cooper, Lotus vice president of solutions.
For example, a company doing in-house software development could link instant messaging software to Siebel Systems CRM (customer relationship management) software, enabling a customer service agent using Siebel to converse with customers via instant messages, Cooper said.
Analysts say Lotus' Java strategy makes sense because IBM has long been a strong proponent of Java. IBM's WebSphere line of e-business software products already supports J2EE.
Forrester Research analyst Chris Dial said once Lotus software supports Java, Lotus applications will be able to run on top of WebSphere products, such as its portal software, technology that allows companies to build portal Web sites for employees, customers or partners. As a result, businesses will be able to more easily create a portal site giving employees access to Lotus e-mail or calendaring software, for example.
"It's clear that it's part of IBM's larger strategy to incorporate Lotus into IBM and to make (Lotus') front-end applications run on WebSphere," Dial said. "It means a big deal for Lotus. It's a good strategy to migrate (customers to J2EE) or risk losing them to BEA, Oracle or Microsoft."
Lotus battles Microsoft and Novell in the messaging and collaboration market. Lotus in 2000 ranked first in the market with 50 percent of overall revenue, followed by Microsoft with 36 percent and Novell with 5 percent, according to the latest study by research firm IDC. Market share data, however, has likely changed in the past year. Microsoft last week, for example, announced it has surpassed 100 million users of its Exchange e-mail software.
Lotus on Monday will announce that the next version of its Lotus family of products--version 6--will ship this third quarter, Cooper said. The company recently released the fourth test version of the products.
Lotus' Notes and Domino software provide e-mail, calendaring and group scheduling. The product family also includes Lotus SameTime instant messaging software for businesses; QuickPlace, for creating a place on the Web for co-workers to interact and collaborate on projects; and Lotus Discovery Server, a content-search technology that allows workers to locate a variety of information.
The new version of Lotus products will include a new user interface, improved security, better reliability and new administration tools to make Lotus products easier to manage, Cooper said.
A Lotus representative said Version 6 of Lotus products will feature initial support for J2EE, such as Java Server Pages, which allows Web pages to include Java applications. But full support for J2EE will be built into future versions over the next year and a half, the spokesman said. No pricing for the new versions was announced.
Lotus' plan to re-engineer its software to support Java will allow businesses to make Lotus software available as a Web service. Cooper expects Internet service providers to offer e-mail, scheduling and other Lotus tools as a subscription-based service over the Internet.