Lotus is soon to throw open the beta process for Notes 5.0 by making the Notes client, server and designer parts available for download by anyone who wants them.
In the process, the company will test its own contention that Notes 5.0 is sufficiently flexible and capable to serve as a general-purpose Internet client. George Westwood, the company's Director of Technology for Australia and New Zealand, in Auckland for the Computerworld Expo, admits the general adoption of the Notes client presents "an interesting possibility. It's not our focus, but it is certainly capable of being a general Internet client."
The main aim of the open beta process, says Westwood, is to have Notes 5.0, which builds major revisiuons and additions on top of the core Notes plumbing, is "to have the product tested in as many different environments as possible. We're very heavily focused on quality with this product, and we're planning a six-month beta cycle because we don't want to have to rush out a 5.0a."
The beta software should be available for download by mid-May. In keeping with recent efforts to make its brand more publicly visible, Lotus will, says Westwood, "be doing Microsoft-style promotions. But we're not going to be charging people to use beta software."
Westwood expects a quieter time this year for Lotus eSuite Java productivity applets, which lead a fairly thin field in NC application software. He expects most interest to be in eSuite DevPack, and says core Notes UI features will be offered to browser users (including those on OS/2 or Unix platforms, for whom there will be no Notes 5.0 client) as Java Beans. This will bring abilities such as miltiple selection, drag and drop and instant delete to browser environments.
Lotus's other main release in the near future is version 2.0 of its basic document management application, Domino.Doc, which is in beta now and will ship with a set of APIs allowing it to be integrated with specialist high-end document management systems. Westwood cites pharmaceutical firm Procter and Gamble as what Lotus sees as a typical Domino.Doc customer.
"They bought 80,000 Notes seats worldwide - and they also bought 80,000 seats of Domino.Doc. They had their documents in a specialist repository called Documentum, but they realised that that information was useful to the whole company. They didn't want to spend $2000 a seat for Documentum, which is a high-end, historical evnironment - but Domino.Doc provides what used to be a niche function for day-to-day use in the company. And they've built a connection to Documentum using those APIs."