Y2K stalls Lotus Notes R5

Lotus Development opened its DevCon99 developers conference yesterday with plans to showcase capabilities in Notes/Domino Release 5, but several large users said they won't install the upgrade for up to a year because of year 2000 freezes at their companies.

Lotus Notes/Domino R5 finally reached stores in April - months after the company launched a high-profile media campaign for the product. But for many users, its arrival was too late to get the product installed this year.

For example, SmithKline Beecham's deployment of R5 will be delayed until March because of the company's freeze on installing new products before January 1, said Bill Wood, director of application technologies at the pharmaceuticals company. But Wood said he hopes to start a Notes/Domino R5 pilot program by September because he sees many benefits to the upgrade, including support for Java and the use of HTML, the Web language, as a native protocol.

Aaron Wiltz, technical analyst at McDonald's, said the new administrative tools in R5 will make his life a lot easier. But that won't happen until McDonald's Y2K freeze lifts, which will start in October.

"Some [companies] are [upgrading to R5] right now because they need the Web performance" improvement, Wiltz said. But many sites that use Notes mainly for messaging and groupware will wait out Y2K, he said.

Lotus is downplaying the problem, claiming that it has seen no signs of Y2K affecting its revenue or sales. Lotus wouldn't disclose sales figures but claimed that 85,000 copies of a free, three-month trial version have been downloaded from the Internet since March 31. Overall, there were 29.6 million Notes/Domino users at the end of last year, according to IDC.

"The vast majority of our customers are going to continue to deploy" Notes R5, said Steve Lewis, a senior director at Lotus.

Year 2000 aside, Mark Levitt, an analyst at IDC, said companies might not be in a rush to upgrade, anyway.

"The [Notes] 4.5 and 4.6 products are great products, and that, together with Y2K, is giving people reason to wait," he said.

Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, is still hoping to complete its R5 migration of 6200 users before an expected Y2K freeze later in the year - that is, if the still-missing Hewlett-Packard HP/UX version of R5 ships in time, said Tom Smith, a project manager at the Boise, Idaho-based company.

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