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Lotus expands software to mobile devices

At its annual user conference, the company is detailing a more flexible strategy for its Notes/Domino messaging software.

ORLANDO, Fla.--Lotus said today it plans to offer new versions of its messaging client software aimed at users of mobile computing devices and Web browser software.

At its annual user conference here today, executives of the IBM subsidiary are detailing a more flexible strategy for its Notes/Domino messaging software that allows customers to choose whether they want to use the full Notes client, a mobile device client or just a Web browser to access Notes/Domino services.

The new strategy will go into effect this quarter, the company said.

Notes/Domino is a software package bought primarily by big companies to manage local area network email and messaging. It also provides discussion databases, group scheduling and other applications. Lotus competes with Microsoft and its Exchange product in the messaging software market.

The new Web browser client, iNotes, provides Notes/Domino mail and collaborative applications, offline support and replication services through a Web browser interface. The Web client works with a new software package called Domino Offline Services which is due to ship later this year, Lotus said. Offline Services also includes the new integration support for Microsoft Outlook software, which the company announced earlier.

A mobile device client software application, called MobileNotes, links Notes/Domino email, calendar, directory technology and access to backroom business applications to mobile device clients, such as the those that support the WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) standard.

"This is important in terms of Lotus recognizing wireless" technology as a viable way to access some of the collaboration technology within Domino, said Dan Rasmus, an analyst at Giga Information Group. "It also gets you around just synching information from Domino to actually working in real time."

With MobileNotes, Rasmus said Lotus allows users to customize and transfer Notes databases onto handheld devices.

"iNotes is different than earlier Web browser support Lotus has provided because for the first time there is client level replication pushed out to the browser, meaning users can replicate data right to their client when they're offline," said James Kobielus, an analyst with The Burton Group.

With iNotes, Lotus is recognizing big changes in the way users access information, said Kobielus. "Lotus is looking to provide more of Domino to the ASP (application service provider) paradygm. They'll still keep Notes all nice and spiffy looking, but they are positioning Domino to be a completely open product for users who do most of their work on the Web browser."

A full Notes license is priced at $69, while the iNotes license is $50 and the MobileNotes license is $20, the company said.