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Lotus' Web strategy

Company sees Domino II as broadening Notes' reach

By Sari Kalin, IDG News Service

July  1996
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Cambridge -- With its two-pronged plan for dealing with the World Wide Web, Lotus Development Corp. is trying to take the high road and the low road to intranet sales.

During a meeting with IDG editors and reporters on June 24 at their corporate headquarters, Lotus officials reiterated the company's Web strategy, which it is implementing under the code names Domino and Domino II.

Under the Domino initiative, Lotus has essentially turned the Notes server into a Web server. That capability is in beta now and will ship with Notes 4.5 in the third quarter.

Under Domino II, Lotus plans to take Notes' object services, such as full-text indexing and searching, replication and access control -- the "crown jewels" of Notes -- and expose them to the Web, by building them on Internet-based standards and protocols. Other servers for mail and directory services will follow, although the packaging and timing has still not been settled.

All of the features of Domino II will be a subset of Notes release 5, officials said. Domino II products and Notes release 5 should be available in the first half of next year, officials said.

While Notes runs over a number of different network operating systems, such as Banyan Systems Inc.'s Vines or Apple Computer Inc.'s AppleTalk, Domino II servers will run only over TCP/IP networks. Larger companies with heterogeneous environments will need Notes, officials said, but for some customers, Domino II will do.

"You'll have versions of Notes that are somewhat lighter in their footprint and ... operate in those clean-sheet-of-paper-environments, where people are only using Internet protocols," said Jeff Papows, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Lotus.

Domino II's architecture will support the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), officials said, and the Internet Inter-Orb Protocol will provide distributed access to CORBA services.


Web-based clients join in
In addition to the Domino II servers, Lotus plans to release two Web-based clients that will be optimized to work with Domino II servers but that will also work with all Web servers: Interactive Application Designer, which will offer collaboration templates and other application development tools, and Mobile Web Information Manager, which will integrate with desktop applications and ActiveX components.

Lotus has not released further details on what the Web clients will be able to do. But one official said the Mobile Web Information Manager will be able to do more than "fetch" and will compete strongly against Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator and Microsoft Corp.'s Explorer. For example, it may be able to save a number of Web pages in order, producing a "Web tour" that can be integrated with a discussion.

"That's going to be a really good client," said Andrew Mahon, manager of Internet marketing at Lotus.

Officials gave no information on price, although Mahon hinted that the information manager client might be available for a free, three-month trial at Lotus' Web site. Officials also said they have yet to decide on a name for the new product line, or on whether the name will refer at all to Notes.

Those questions aside, Lotus hopes the Domino II line will expand its channel sales, moving beyond the traditional Notes corporate customer to the SOHO (small office and home office) and midsize company market.

"We'll be able to move farther downmarket because we have a somewhat simpler technology," Papows said.

Recruitment of new partners
Another part of Lotus' Web strategy is to recruit pure Internet companies into the Lotus business-partner fold. Domino I has already won a few such converts, officials said, including Millenium Productions Inc., a Web marketing and development firm based in Cambridge, MA.

Millenium learned about Domino I less than a month ago, got its first Notes server two weeks ago, and moved one of its Web sites there in about in three days, officials said. A customer is now updating text and links at his Millenium-built Web site using a Notes client, a far easier process than dealing with FTP and directories, according to Millenium's top executive.

Ease of use is not Notes' only appeal, said V.A. Shiva, president and CEO of Millenium, who plans to move other Millenium projects to Notes.

"Notes has been solidly proven in a networking environment where a lot of people are hitting the site," Shiva said. "The guts of Notes are very solid."

The Domino II plan is winning high marks from analysts, especially because it shows that Lotus is putting some steam behind its efforts to turn into a Web company.

"It's nice to see that they're moving in a direction that will keep them competitive," said Paula Boyle, industry analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, MA.

Hurdles remain, analysts said, chief among them how Lotus will market Domino II -- that is, how will Lotus highlight Domino II's Notes features, but not tar it with the Notes-is-proprietary brush.

Even under the most pessimistic view of Notes' future -- "that Web technology has already taken over the planet and proprietary stuff like Notes hasn't a prayer" -- Domino II could still give Lotus a solid foothold in the Web market, according to one analyst.

"There's still a lot of technology Notes has that doesn't exist on the Web," said Ted Julian, research manager for Internet commerce at International Data Corp. in Framingham, MA. "If they could bring that technology to the Web, they could extremely quickly become a lead player."
--Sari Kalin, IDG News Service

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