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Lotus sprouts browsers

Lotus bundles Web browsers from Netscape and Microsoft with Notes and SmartSuite.

Although the companies are increasingly pitted against each other in the intranet market, IBM (IBM) subsidiary Lotus Development announced that it would bundle Web browsers from Netscape Communications and Microsoft with its Notes and SmartSuite products.

The announcements came at Lotus's Domino Web Developers conference in Anaheim, California. At the conference, Lotus also announced that its Notes 4.5 client would support Java applets and the VB Script and JavaScript scripting languages.

Domino is a critical part of Lotus's strategy to incorporate standard Internet protocols, such as HTML and HTTP, into its proprietary Notes server. Rather than requiring users to access shared folders, messaging, and other groupware applications through a proprietary Notes client, the Domino server--otherwise known as Notes 4.5--can be accessed by anyone with a standard Web browser.

Currently, Notes 4.5 is in beta testing and is due to ship by the end of the year.

By bundling the two leading Web browsers with its server, Lotus is making a largely symbolic gesture since Navigator and Explorer are widely available on the Net and within corporate intranets. Still, the arrangement illustrates how far Lotus has come from a year ago when it denied that Web software was up to the demands of most corporations.

Despite their bundling arrangement, however, Netscape and Microsoft are going after Notes with a vengeance.

Netscape is fast at work preparing the first beta versions of SuiteSpot 3.0, the company's most serious bid yet to compete with Notes in the corporate intranet market. Meanwhile, Microsoft is going after the traditional groupware market with its proprietary Exchange Server, as well as pushing a line of servers based on standard Internet protocols.

The bundling arrangements between Lotus and the browser vendors dovetail with a product called Weblicator that Lotus announced last week. Weblictator is an add-on program that extends a critical piece of Notes technology--replication--to Web browsers.

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