Lotus shows its Java colours at Melbourne Interweb gathering

Java and Kona. Java, Beans and Interbus. Java and Domino. The message at Interweb, the Lotus product roadshow held in Melbourne last week, was clear. Lotus's laid-back approach to Java has gone. There's a new breed of Java evangelist in town, and they're wearing Lotus yellow.

Java and Kona. Java, Beans and Interbus. Java and Domino. The message at Interweb, the Lotus product roadshow held in Melbourne last week, was clear. Lotus’s laid-back approach to Java has gone. There’s a new breed of Java evangelist in town, and they’re wearing Lotus yellow.

First there was Kona, a suite of Java applets due to be released around the end of this year. The Kona applets will include spread-sheet, calendaring and scheduling, charting, word-processing, presentation, email and data-access (SQL/JDBC) applets. Each of these applets is under 500Kb in size and is a “Java Bean”, a reusable software component. Lotus is currently hard at work on the user-interface for the Kona applets, and has made the work-in-progress available for viewing at http://kona.lotus.com with the aim of stimulating some feedback from the public on the look and feel of the interface.

Then there was a lot of noise about JavaBeans. Lotus’s proposed standard for communications between JavaBeans — known as Infobus technology — has recently been adopted as a standard by JavaSoft, and will be included into the next release of the Java SDK, making Lotus a central player in the emergent Java applet market. Lotus used Interweb to showcase The Bean Machine, a tool for creating JavaBean applets, which was actually written by IBM but will be sold under the Lotus brand name.

The Bean Machine is a visual, drag-and-drop tool for linking Java-Beans to form fully-fledged Java applets which can include animation, multimedia, special effects and, with the use of the included data access Bean, can link to any ODBC-compliant data source. And finally Lotus eagerly demonstrated the ease with which Java applets can be incorporated into Domino documents and served up across the Web or the intranet. The Lotus Message? Domino’s object-store model provides a solid structure for storing and serving all manner of objects — including Java applets.

The pace of development for the Web was clear from the announcement at Interweb that the planned point-release updates to Domino — versions 4.6 and 4.7 — are to be merged into one release, 4.6, due mid July. Release 4.6 will, as Lotus’s senior marketing manager Alex Neihaus put it, be fully “buzzword compliant”, with support for Internet message access protocol (IMAP), network news transfer protocol (NNTP) lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) and secure sockets layer (SSL) version 3. It will also feature a revamped user interface.

This new interface will allow users to create compound databases with views and folders from a range of databases together on the same screen, providing a better way of organising documents (including email) according to their relevance to particular projects. The Notes 4.6 HTML browser will also (finally) support frames.

Although previews of Notes 5.0 (due Q1 1998) weren’t shown at Interweb, the word is that there is to be a clear split between the client and server components of Notes 5.0. The Notes client family is due to diversify with a range of client-like products including the recently released Weblicator plug-in for Netscape and Internet Explorer, various mail clients and a lighter version of the Notes desktop. The design tools will become part of the Domino server range of products, with the release of a new Notes Designer product. We can also expect the Notes 5.0 designer to have a much more visual, drag-and-drop, GUI style than the current Notes development environment.

The other clearly spelled out message of Interweb, is that the Lotus-IBM partnership is starting to pay dividends. With the release of the Go Server tools, Lotus and IBM say they can now between them offer the largest range of Internet/intranet server solutions, from the Go Server (an entry-level HTTP server with page-creation and site-management tools), through Domino-based solutions to enterprise-level servers designed for heavy transaction loads.

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