The bloom may be off the rose for network computers, but Lotus is preparing the September release of a new eSuite set of Java applications with an eye on PCs.
Version 1.5 of eSuite will arrive two months before Microsoft 's Office 2000 in November and brings into clearer focus the battle lines between the Windows/Office/Hydra version of business productivity applications and Lotus' solution of Java-based applets.
The new version will use a model of dynamically matching the best Java virtual machine (JVM) to the client platform and task.
The eSuite user interface will also allow access to files anywhere, similar to the Windows 98 Active Desktop, Lotus officials said.
"We will be offering eSuite on Windows PCs, and the goal is to shift the computing paradigm regardless of the client hardware platform," said Doug Wilson, lead architect for eSuite at Lotus.
This eSuite version will be geared toward mixed environments.
The goal for Lotus now is to test a variety of JVMs and guarantee a rich set of functions to client platforms with a Java-enabled browser or component. With the first version of eSuite, a rich level of functions could not be attained on all JVMs and platforms, Lotus conceded.
According to observers, both the Lotus and Microsoft approaches have merits.
"If you want give everyone in your organization a similar desktop, to see the same thing regardless of it being a terminal or a PC, you need to go with [Microsoft] Windows Terminal or Citrix [Picasso]," said Rob Enderle, a senior analyst at the Giga Information Group, Santa Clara, California. "But if you want the least costly way to add functions to a group of terminals then the [Lotus eSuite] way works."
Some systems integrators like the idea of mixing Windows emulation and Java applets.
"Using eSuite and Citrix [Windows emulation], I can do old and new, and that's exciting," said Jamie Thain, president of SBI, in Hamilton, Bermuda. "I see it as the only way to solve some things. In the long term there will be small, light Java machines that cost [US]$1,000 and PCs that cost $1,000, but the delta in price comes in administration."
Lotus expects users to employ a hybrid of computing for a while. A future desktop PC may include some full-feature applications that run locally, but the bulk of activity would take place via the eSuite workspace.
Lotus also plans to integrate eSuite 1.5 and Notes/Domino 5.0, due this fourth quarter. Users of the browser-enabled Notes client, for example, could also use the eSuite applications from the same client. The company also expects intranet developers to build their own workspaces using the eSuite DevPack.
The DevPack shipped in March at a price of $99 per user for individual developers and at $1,495 for a single-processor server license. Lotus said the prices for eSuite 1.5 would most likely remain the same.
Lotus Development Corp., an IBM subsidiary, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is at http://www.lotus.com.
Components of eSuite 1.5
-- Word processing -- Spreadsheet
-- E-mail -- Presentation graphics
-- Calendar -- Address book
-- Chart -- High-fidelity file viewers(1)
-- Spell checking(1) -- Import filters(1)
(1) New features
SIDEBAR: Grasping Windows emulation
By Dana Gardner
Where does Windows emulation end and thin-client computing begin? From the perspective of Lotus and Microsoft, the two are worlds apart.
When Microsoft delivers Windows Terminal Server 2.0 this month, it will provide a way to deliver 32-bit Windows applications to clients that would not otherwise be able to accommodate them, such as green screen terminals, 16-bit Windows and DOS boxes, and Macintosh and Unix clients.
A special protocol allows the client to render the user interface of a server-based application.
Critics, including Lotus, say this puts a constant demand on networks because every page refresh and mouse click travels to the server application being emulated. They also say that Windows emulation does not scale well and will require many Windows NT-based servers to accommodate the enterprise.
On the other hand, Lotus, with its eSuite package of Java-based applications, lets any client -- NC or PC or personal digital assistant -- with a Java-enabled browser download applets and split the processing load between the client and server. Applications reside on the server and travel down to clients as needed to work there until the session ends.
That, according to Lotus, taxes the network less and scales higher from a central server.
However, Windows advocates say the Java-based client paradigm is no less costly than PCs and requires a lot of RAM and bandwidth to work well. Microsoft also faults the scarcity of ready-made applications and tools to run on Java-based thin clients.