Lotus has announced that NCI, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oracle, will make Lotus' Java-based applets, called Kona, available for NCI's network computer software later this year.
Over the next several months, Lotus and Oracle will decide which Oracle offerings will be integrated with Kona, according to Peter Van de Graaf, director of product management for Kona at Lotus. The Oracle products being considered are InterOffice, a messaging and groupware application, NCI Desktop, the company's NC system software, and Hat Trick, Oracle's own Java applets, Van de Graaf says.
The deal is not a bundling agreement, Van de Graaf says. Kona applets, slated for release in the third quarter, will be available separately from Lotus, he says.
Rather, Lotus and Oracle will work together on "how we can make Kona applets work better as part of the NC desktop", Van de Graaf says.
Lotus' Kona is a series of productivity applets, including those for spreadsheets, charts, project scheduling, text processing and email.
Lotus is declining to discuss whether it will license Kona to Oracle or follow some other business model, noting only that no licensing agreement has been signed. However, the deal with Oracle is not exclusive, according to Adam Banker, a Lotus spokesman.
"We're looking to make similar announcements in the future with other vendors," Banker says.
If Lotus opts not to license Kona, it could be seeking to retain control of what is essentially still an immature technology, according to Michael Pinckney, research director at Gartner Group, a Stamford, Connecticut-based consultancy. "It might be concerned about somebody ... positioning the technology differently from what it'd like to do," he says.
Previously, analysts had said the speculated integration of Kona and Oracle technologies could be a smart move. For example, in InterOffice, Oracle's messaging and groupware platform, "Oracle has what appears to be a nice scaleable email engine ... but Oracle has a chronic problem delivering useful [graphical user interfaces] to people," says Eric Brown, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "Kona, on the other hand, is about client."
From Lotus' point of view, Oracle's embrace of Kona could be a real boost, according to Gartner Group's Pinckney. "It would be recognition and visibility for its Kona strategy," Pinckney says. "It wants everyone in the world to buy, use and build on top of Java applets."
Oracle officials were not immediately available for comment.