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Lotus, Sun show faith in NC

Standing by their commitment to the network computer, Lotus and Sun will show off new applications at Internet World Summer in Chicago.

Standing by their commitment to the network computer, Lotus Development, a subsidiary of IBM, and Sun Microsystems said they will show off new applications next week.

The companies will roll out the latest Sun JavaStation NC connected to Lotus's eSuite Workplace 1.5, running on Sun's newest release of its Netra J server, at next week's Internet World Summer in Chicago.

Due for beta testing on July 21, the eSuite package will be free for a 120-day trial basis and then for $49 per seat starting in September, compared to the regular list price of $79, Lotus said.

As reported earlier, 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.

eSuite Workplace is 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.

"We have been working with Sun for a long time," eSuite marketing manager Peter Cohen said. "We specifically used the Sun JavaStation when we launched eSuite back in November."

eSuite is an attempt by Lotus to give corporate network users a slimmed-down set of applications that provides 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.

Netra J software is a Solaris application that fits into existing Sun systems to provide JavaStation client software, browser-based administration of NCs, and access to data and applications on SNA, NT, Solaris, and other legacy servers, according to Sun.

For the most part, customers are using JavaStations for replacement of "green screen" terminal computers, which were previously tethered to mainframes, or as kiosks--two lucrative but small markets in comparison with Sun's original vision.

Precious little momentum exists in the broader market as a combination of low-cost PCs and terminal computers, the cheapest of the cheap boxes, begin to freeze Sun out of potential market share.

Although debate continues over 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 Lotus is clearly making an effort not to limit itself to the platform. With the newest release of eSuite, the company built it to run on the Windows desktop, as Windows NT.