Lotus offers clients, components and buckets of Java

Call it the year of clients and components. Lotus Development Corp. plans a strong client focus in 1997, as well as beefed-up Java-based components, according to announcements at Lotusphere. A Java-based desktop for network computers, two new slimeline mail clients and a reconceived Notes client were among the products previewed. Meanwhile, IBM CEO Lou Gerstner vowed to solve Lotus's service and support problems.

Call it the year of clients and components. Lotus Development Corp. plans a strong client focus in 1997, as well as beefed-up Java-based components, according to announcements at Lotusphere 97.

Lotus has also unveiled a Java-based desktop for network computers, and detailed plans for enhanced support for Internet standards in clients and servers.

On the client side, Lotus announced plans for two new lightweight mail clients, as well as two updates to the Notes client.

"We will be as deliberate and energetic about our client-centric plans in 1997 as we were about our Domino and server-centric plans in 1996," said Lotus President Jeff Papows at the opening session.

Other announcements included Lotus Mail, Java edition, a basic mail client for network computers and browsers that will be released in the first half of 1997; no pricing was announced at the opening session. Also new, Lotus Mail is a mail client, compliant with POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3) that is due out in the first quarter priced at US$35.

Lotus also has plans for updating the Notes client. The first update, code-named Lookout, will be out in the first half of this year, and will feature a simple user interface with a task-centered approach so users can click on a task bar to switch between databases. It will also support the inclusion of JavaBeans and ActiveX components in the Notes environment. As an example, Internet Explorer was shown running integrated within Notes, not simply launched from within Notes; "Much cooler than plug-ins," said Michael Zisman, executive vice president,

The second update to the client, code-named Maui, is scheduled for fourth-quarter release, but full details were not immediately available.

"We can now separate the client and server ship schedules ... so you can now expect releases to come out more dynamically," Papows said.

Furthering the company's support Java, Lotus announced plans for its Java component strategy, code-named Kona. Kona is a set of Java applets for business productivity applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, calendaring, and email. Lotus demonstrated the applets on an IBM ThinkPad running Windows 95 and Internet Explorer, and also on an IBM network computer as well as on a Macintosh. Last year at Lotusphere, Lotus unveiled ActiveX-based components that would only run in a Windows environment. Officials said they plan to continue the ActiveX component line, but in the end they see Java becoming the preferred direction for components because of its cross-platform support.

"Over time, we do believe the marketplace will move towards Java," said Lynne Capozzi, senior director of product marketing in Lotus' business applications division.

The beta version of the Kona applets will be available March 1 on the Web.

Lotus also unveiled the Lotus Desktop for Network Computers, a Java-based graphical user interface that works on any network computer. It will be standard on IBM's NCs but also available on NCs from other vendors such as Sun's JavaStation, said Larry Roshfeld, general manager of the business applications group.

On the Domino server side, Lotus officials promised support for Internet standards such as IIOP (Internet Inter-ORB Protocol) but said that they will continue to support the Notes Remote Procedure Call. Lotus also demonstrated Domino server support for NNTP (Network News Transfer Protocol), which allows Notes discussions to be accessible by Internet newsgroup readers. Lotus demonstrated LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) support as well.

Lotus now has 9.5 million Notes users worldwide, a 115 percent increase over the 4.5 million number it claimed last year. Lotus officials are predicting that its user base will reach 18 million by the end of this year.

Lotus officials and IBM CEO Lou Gerstner also pledged not to cede any groupware ground to Microsoft or Netscape.

"Groupware is one battle we aim to win and win decisively," Gerstner said. "The Lotus team has done a magnificent job of repositioning Notes for the Internet ... now is the time to build on that momentum before those dueling emperors put some clothes on."

This year, one of IBM's and Lotus's priorities will be solving "Lotus's service and support problems," Gerstner said to applause from the crowd.

Lotus is expecting 10,000 attendees in Florida, and 2,000 at a similar event in Nice, France, next week.

Lotus, headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can be reached at http://www.lotus.com/.

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