In another demonstration of its cut-throat internal culture, Oracle may be poised to kill its Hat Trick Java productivity applets in order to lend weight to Lotus’s newly announced eSuite technology.
Hat Trick was “out in the cold” now that both Oracle and its affiliate Network Computer (NCI) had agreed to license eSuite, Oracle Australia’s electronic commerce manager, Pascal Grant, told a Sydney press conference last week. He said the decision to back eSuite had been made nearly two months ago. Speculation that Oracle would license Kona — as the eSuite applets were formerly known — first arose earlier this year.
Grant later corrected himself, saying that while NCI had pushed hard to license eSuite, Oracle’s InterOffice division wanted to continue working with Hat Trick and offer eSuite as an “option”. InterOffice officials at the recent Oracle OpenWorld in Los Angeles were also emphatic that Hat Trick was a going concern.
But given Oracle’s company-wide focus on network computing, it is hard to see room for both technologies, especially as eSuite’s Infobus, a dynamic mechanism for data sharing between applets (Java’s answer to OLE), is to be incorporated in the next release of Sun’s Java development kit. Hat Trick’s sideways move may be a precursor to a kill-off similar to that suffered by Oracle’s Sedona development tool.
If Java and network computing do prove to be the “next wave”, Lotus has gone some way to establishing itself as the leading applications provider in the new world. The company was joined by an impressive list of supporters when it announced eSuite last week. Alongside Oracle and Sun, IBM, Novell, America Online, Net-scape and Intel endorsed the launch.
Intel’s commitment to work with Lotus to ensure eSuite runs optimally on Intel-based PC platforms represents the chip giant’s first real dabble on the other side of the tracks. Novell will ship eSuite with IntranetWare, IBM will ship it with its Network Station 1000 series and Sun will deliver it with its JavaStation. Netscape and AOL will both distribute individual applets online. In an additional announcement last week, Lotus, IBM, Oracle and Sun said they would pool resources to develop a common NC desktop environment. The specification would be available for licensing by other developers.
eSuite comes as two distinct products. The client software, eSuite Workplace, will sell through the Lotus Passport -volume--pricing programme for $89 per user. It provides a desktop environment and includes a word processor, email, spread-sheet, presentation graphics and address book applets. In beta now, it is set for release in January.
Although eSuite should be able to run anywhere there is a Java virtual machine (VM), the first release will see different versions optimised for PC and NC platforms. Lotus spokesman Tom Kane admitts the release strategy appears to belie the “write once, run anywhere” mantra, but says different vendors have different VM implementations, and that Lotus is envisaging a single version in future. The eSuite Workplace includes capability for 3270 and 5250 terminal emulation, which may make it attractive in the host access space, but the software’s baseline specs — Pentium and 32Mb of RAM — offer little joy for businesses seeking to rehabilitate legacy PCs.
The other product is eSuite DevPack, which includes the Workplace applets, plus Infobus and a data access applet.