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Lotus sees Domino effect

Lotus hopes to carry its Internet business strategy a few more yards with developers this Super Bowl Sunday when it kicks off its trade show.

    Lotus Development hopes to carry the company's Internet business strategy a few more yards with software developers this Super Bowl Sunday when it kicks off its annual trade show.

    Some 10,000 people are expected to attend the Lotusphere extravaganza at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida, an event that has been sold out for weeks and will be simultaneously Webcast on the company's online site.

    What they will see is a whole new Lotus.

    The company has undergone major changes: It has Web-enabled the flagship Notes groupware and changed the official brand name to Domino 4.5 powered by Notes, a move meant to underscore the company's embracing of the Internet.

    Under pressure from the growing popularity of the Net and the advent of cheap and accessible Web browsers, Lotus also threw out the lucrative per-seat pricing model for some products. It broke up the Notes client and other of the groupware's most popular features to sell the items separately.

    These three moves alone have radically changed Lotus; the company is more dependent than before on the support of independent software vendors to make its strategy a success.

    The technology efforts have largely impressed analysts and garnered Lotus significant market attention for Domino and a slew of companion software tools for Web publishing, electronic commerce, and other online uses. Yet the company still has work ahead to better define itself and attract independent software vendors to the Domino platform.

    "If they don't get any respect from the ISV community they are going to be left in the dust," according to Tom Austin, an analyst with market research firm the Gartner Group.

    Its success with the developers will chiefly rely on how quickly the company can expand its installed base, Austin said. Gartner expects Notes usage to grow to some 25 million people by the end of 1998. The company needs to double that figure by 2001 if Lotus is to keep pace with Microsoft and Netscape, Austin said.

    Three in every ten Lotusphere attendees this year are developers and members of the Lotus business partner program, the group that company executives have been aggressively courting to get that developer support.

    Austin said so far that Lotus hasn't had as much success with these independent developers as Microsoft or Netscape Communications, Lotus's chief rivals in the groupware and Web server markets.

    But Lotus has increased its efforts to woo developers. "We are trying to get the world to hear our message," said Larry McMenamy, a Lotus vice president in charge of the partners program.

    The company this week announced plans to offer development kits for its Domino that would let developers create customized applications that could run over the Internet. (See related story)

    McMenamy says Lotus is also planning to make a big play for the Web server market. "We have a very good chance of being one of the big three players," he said. The other two big players: Netscape and Microsoft, of course.

    Being a big Web server firm means having a better relationship with systems integrators as well, and Lotus is working on that too. Earlier this week, the company debuted Domino.Connect, which it said will finally fulfill the Net's promise of tying together back- and front-end systems. (See related story)

    Next week in Orlando, the company will work to reinforce in developers' minds how useful these two products are and may offer more details of the Java component strategy that it announced at Comdex in Las Vegas last fall.

    But the real proof of the success of Lotus's strategy will be in who shows up and how forcefully they voice their support for Notes. Among the developments expected this week:

  • Global Systems Services is announcing migration services for linking Lotus's cc:Mail and Notes Mail to the Web.

  • AT&T Wireless Services will show of its PocketNet Phone, combination cellular phone/wireless Internet apparatus. It uses a Notes Pager Gateway for messaging and sending faxes.

  • Big Sky will demonstrate text-to-speech technology that uses Phone Notes voice response Notes applications that it codeveloped with Lotus.

  • McAfee will exhibit its GroupShield native Notes antivirus software for protecting Notes databases and mail attachments.

  • Revelation Software will demonstrate its ViP 2.1 Domino intranet development tool for creating applications that combine Windows 95 controls, custom data reporting, the LotusScript language, and HTML content.