Lotus, Microsoft co-operation results in BackOffice certification for Domino

The tastiest titbits in conference keynotes are sometimes most effectively announced with a casual "by the way". And so it was when Steve Beckhard, president of Lotus's Iris subsidiary, told the opening session crowd at Lotusphere 98 in Orlando, Florida, that they had just seen the first public demonstration of Domino for Microsoft Internet Information Server. "And you'd probably also be interested to know that Domino has just been approved for BackOffice certification," grinned Beckhardt as the audience murmured. "We've been working with Microsoft."

For all its casual delivery, the announcement was a powerful testament to Lotus’s ability to partner broadly and freely — even with its sometime competitors.

Lotus CEO Jeff Papows told reporters afterwards that the announcement of BackOffice certification for Domino “was probably a surprise for many people — but it’s the kind of thing I’d like to see the company continue to be valued for”.

Papows also warned that not too much should be read into its relationships with Microsoft’s Java foes, Sun and Oracle — whose CEOs both shared a stage with Papows for the lunch of Lotus’s eSuite Java applets in November.

“If you pick up any anti-Microsoft sentiment here, you really shouldn’t. This is not about the next version of a food fight with Microsoft Office. It’s about creating a standards-based environment which provides the kind of ubiquity and transparency we need in a world where interoperability is defined whatever happens to be outside the firewall.

Lotus VP Mike Zisman listed other Microsoft inter-operability work in progress, including integration of Domino with Microsoft’s system management console and, “obviously”, active directory.

“We’d like to integrate with other Web servers, too, but the issue is development time,” Zisman says. “Our message is that Domino is a Web application server that works well and adds significant value on top of any HTTP server.”

Web standards will also be a point of contact with Microsoft offline. Papows said HTML was being seen at Lotus as an alternative file with which to enhance compatibility between its own applications, including SmartSuite, and those of Microsoft.

“We have discussed this with Microsoft and they’re moving to the same place,” he said. “It won’t be perfect and it won’t all happen at once, but that’s where we’re going.”

Papows was keen to emphasise afterwards that closeness to Microsoft did not mean any chilling of Lotus’s relationship with Netscape.

Papows said Lotus is now “working pretty hard” with Netscape, which will soon begin distribution of eSuite applets from its busy Web site.

“So you’ll see lots of dimensions to the relationship where we’ll be allies, and, of course, others where we’ll continue to compete for business.”

Lotus is in the early stages of work with Novell on Java at the server, Papows said.

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