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Lotus readies new Java suite

The next version of the company's Java-based applications suite will be released in September, with a focus on the PC.

Lotus Development plans to release the next version of its Java-based applications suite in September, with a focus on the PC and a promise that it's not leaving the NC behind.

Coming two months before the release of Microsoft Office 2000, eSuite WorkPlace and DevPack 1.5 brings together those features and enhancements that the company couldn't put into the first release of the product line, said Adam Banker, marketing manager for Internet applications at Lotus.

And despite a so-far lackluster customer reception for network computers, Banker said, "the network computer is still around and we plan to provide these applications for them. With this release, the important thing is it will now run on PCs as well."

The eSuite product line features eSuite Workplace, a desktop package of applets including email, a word processor, spreadsheet, calendar, chart presentation graphics, and an address book, which can run on any device that supports Java, including NCs and PCs. Although not in this version, future releases of the product will include some of the new real-time collaborative technologies, called SameTime.

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

The new version of eSuite WorkPlace will feature a spellchecker in the word processing applet, a feature for cutting and pasting content between applets, and better computing capabilities in the spreadsheet component, allowing users to point and click on individual blocks frames in the spreadsheet and make new calculations, according to Lotus.

"We also enhanced interoperability between other office applications like Lotus SmartSuite and Microsoft Exchange and Office," Banker said.

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 it to run on the Windows desktop, as well as Windows NT.

"We did it so whatever deployment a customer wants to do they can do," Banker said.

Although he stayed away from giving any details, Banker did agree that the new SameTime technology is being looked at for future use in eSuite. "It is a very interesting technology. We're investigating the right way and the appropriate way to fit the two together."