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Notes headed to Linux

Lotus plans a Linux version of its Notes/Domino messaging software, the company's chief executive said today.

ORLANDO, Florida -- The next version of Lotus Domino and Notes collaboration software will be on store shelves next month, with a Linux version due later in the year, the IBM-subsidiary's chief executive officer Jeff Papows told an exuberant crowd at Lotusphere99 here today.

Although he admitted this wasn't what was widely expected, Papows said the company needed "two to three more weeks to make sure we have the product," customers desire.

The announcement comes after a number of delays in the development cycle. The newest version of the product had originally expected to be shipped by the end of 1997, and was then rescheduled to the first half of last year.

Lotus rolled out the second public beta of Notes/Domino Release 5 on November 15, after delaying the final testing phase by several months.

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

On the heels of disclosing next month's R5 ship date Papows announced that this year he expects his company to put out a Linux version of the server, bringing to an end some speculation as to when the Cambridge, Massachusetts?based company was going to jump on the Linux bandwagon.

"But this doesn't mean we're going to provide open source, or any freeware, so checks and money orders are still welcomed," he joked.

Domino 5.0 features an improved user interface, enhanced real-time messaging features, and support for Java applets. And in this release the company said the Domino messaging platform now supports the SMTP internet mail standard.

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.

Papows also announced a new partnership with Internet powerhouse America Online, where the two companies will provide a co-branded suite of offerings to users of Lotus Notes R5 and the company's real time collaboration software Lotus Sametime. The joint effort will provide Lotus business users with AOL's Web searching capabilities and Instant Messenger feature.

Papows announced that for the fourth quarter of 1998 Lotus sold 5 million new seats of Notes and Domino, up from 3.4 million in the previous quarter.

Response to the Papows speech was lukewarm amongst conference attendees.

During the speech the audience, made up mainly of users and partners, applauded to features already widely covered in the press, like calendaring features and Sametime collaboration features within Notes.

"There was nothing really earth shattering," Tom Austin, a senior analyst with Gartner Group. And the continuing delay of the shipped product did not surprise him either.

"When they said in January 1997, they would ship R5 in the fourth quarter, we warned that it would ship in 98 in June. I'm not surprised with February," he said.

In the long run, he said the string of delays in the shipping release of R5 has hurt Lotus a little because arch rival Microsoft has been able to provide a high-performance product and get it to market. "Now Lotus has closed the performance gap," but needs to get its product to market as well, Austin said.