Breaking free of the chains that bind

Lotus Development Corp. recently announced the release of a product to help deskless, roaming workers who are constantly on the move.

The subsidiary of IBM Corp. has launched Lotus iNotes Web Access, a service that allows users to access their Domino-based applications via the Web. From e-mail to scheduling meetings, everything can be accessed, manipulated and updated. Using Web languages such as XML and DHTML, the service is completely browser-based, according to the company.

Claudine Simard, Toronto-based national technology manager for Lotus Canada, said the program is implemented just like any other messaging service, on a central server. The bonus comes through a “no-touch desktop deployment model.” From any Internet connection, the full Lotus Notes functionality is available to mobile employees. Users simply point their browsers to the site and the required code is downloaded to their desktop. Once set up, the code acts like a “mini server,” allowing the user to continue using all Lotus Notes features – even when off-line – and synchronizing with the server at the office once reconnected.

Simard said the benefits of keeping Lotus iNotes centrally administered translates to faster deployment and lowers the cost of ownership and maintenance.

The best part, however, is the program is free to existing Lotus Notes clients. For the rest, Lotus has a suggested volume price of US$48 per user – although Simard said the price may fluctuate depending on the number of users.

Mark Levitt, research director for collaborative computing with Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC), said time management and messaging software has two distinct futures. Four or five years ago, Levitt said many people believed the browser would replace locally installed software, but today, things have changed.

“For most people, the browser is a supplementary way of doing things. It’s not a universal client,” he said.

For the deskless worker, programs like Lotus iNotes give them faster service without the overhead, while more traditional software provides richer functionality and better performance, he explained. For companies like Lotus, the key is not to neglect one for the other; people are looking for products that support Web browsers and expand what they can do with their existing software.

“The motivation is greater flexibility and giving the customer wider choices,” Levitt said.

IDC predicts that more than 30 million mailboxes will be accessed primarily through a Web browser in North America by 2003.

Lotus iNotes Web Access is immediately available. For more information, visit