Lotus pairs eSuite tools, Domino

Lotus plans to begin shipping its package of Java applets and tools for Web developers with its Domino Designer Pack beginning next week.

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Lotus Development said it plans to begin shipping its package of Java applets and tools for Web developers with its Domino Designer Pack beginning next week.

The availability of eSuite DevPack 1.5 with the Domino package will coincide with the company's 1998 DevPack Conference on Lotus Domino next week in Palm Springs, California.

The move demonstrates another attempt by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based software company to extend its eSuite Java-based desktop applications suite beyond its original design as a desktop suite for the network computer.

"[Lotus] is trying to make a serious run at Microsoft on the desktop," said Rob Enderle, an analyst with Giga Information Group . "Given where the market is going it could do well if eSuite is allowed to mature. This is another way to take on Microsoft."

Hitting store shelves almost a full quarter before the release of Microsoft's Office 2000 desktop application suite, eSuite WorkPlace and DevPack 1.5 bring together those features and enhancements that the company couldn't put into the first release of the product line.

"If eSuite is allowed to mature and Domino is on the back end, [Lotus] may be able to have some success," said Enderle.

Despite a so-far lackluster customer reception for network computers, Lotus insists the network computer is still around and it plans to provide desktop applications for them.

eSuite DevPack is a variety of applets and tools that allows developers to create Internet applications. DevPack also includes LotusInfoBus, a Java Developer Kit standard mechanism for data-sharing between applets jointly developed with Java kingpin Sun.

DevPack also includes better work connections with Notes Designer for Domino 4.6.2 and support for a larger collection of "additional builders tools;" enhanced support for Java development tools, specifically IBM's Visual Age for Java 2.0 and Symantec's Visual Cafe 2.5; the new DevPack eSuite Fusion Connection kit which provides support in NetObjects Fusion, a Web development toolset that allows a DevPack applet to be visually configured and added to a Web page.

Domino Designer contains a developer version of Domino server 4.6 that can be used for prototyping applications, as well as a complete set of Lotus application development tools.

eSuite is an attempt by Lotus to give corporate network users a slimmed-down set of applications that provide only the functions absolutely necessary to a user's routine tasks.

The applications are Java "beans," which means they adhere to the JavaBeans standard and can be "glued" together using Java development tools to make new applications. Each bean container can hold other beans, so a word processor document could host a spreadsheet component, for example.

Although discussion continues about the future of network computing, Lotus insists it is committed to the idea. This makes sense given that the company is a subsidiary of IBM, which has made a huge investment developing both a strategy and a product line based on network computing.

But the company is clearly making an effort to not limit itself to the platform. With this release, Lotus built its product to run on the Windows desktop, as well as Windows NT. And with this latest decision to ship the development tool set of the eSuite package, Lotus will also be tapping the Domino Designer Pack market.

DevPack is regularly available for an estimated price of $1,495, through Lotus PassPort, and a single developer license is priced at $99, the company said. However, the DevPack will be included at no extra cost with Domino Designer Pack which sells for an estimated retail price of $695.