Lotus looks to dominate messaging clients

If Lotus has its way, Domino will be the backend of choice, regardless of customers’ client software. Indeed, so-called “non-Notes” clients are now particular targets for Lotus’s Domino efforts. In that vein, at the recent Lotusphere user conference in Orlando, Fla. the company announced Microsoft Outlook would be supported as an alternate messaging client to Domino. “Supporting Outlook on Domino is key,” said Jim Pouliopoulos, Lotus segment marketing manager for messaging and collaboration.

Being cross-platform is an important strategy, said Cathy Beck, a representative of EDS Canada in Whitby, Ont. She said EDS itself uses Microsoft Exchange for e-mail, but also runs Notes applications and a Domino backend. She was one of the 10,000 attendees at Lotusphere — “a good showcase for the fact that Notes can do so much for you,” she noted.

“The reality is Microsoft Office is indeed a force within the marketplace,” said Jeff Papows, outgoing Lotus CEO at the conference.

His replacement, Al Zollar was also in attendance, gearing up to take over on Feb. 1. Zollar, with 23 years of experience at IBM, was previously general manager of IBM’s network computing software division.

There are now more than 56 million users of Notes, (up from 2.2 million when the company was acquired in 1995.) Continuing that rate of growth might be a challenge, but Lotus is prepared to be flexible, launching both mobile and browser-based versions of its client. Indeed, Mobile Notes is expected to target a wide range of mobile and wireless devices (including the 3Com Palm and smart phones), providing access to secure e-mail, calendaring, directory and other Domino applications. It will ship this quarter, but pricing has yet to be announced. Lotus expects to see half-a-billion handheld and wireless devices (such as WAP-enabled phones) in the market by 2003. Pouliopoulos said a recent Lotus study of corporate IT managers found 41 per cent reported mobile and wireless integration as a priority for the next 12 months.

Greg Michetti, president of Edmonton-based consulting company, Michetti Information Solutions Inc., said Lotus is working hard at extending its market-share. He noted that a copy of Notes and Domino is already shipped with IBM’s Netfinity servers. “That has companies starting to look at Notes. Lotus is taking the same approach with iNotes and Mobile Notes.”

The newly announced Lotus iNotes is meant to work through either a standard Web browser or Microsoft Outlook to give users access to Web-based Domino applications. Meanwhile, the Domino Off-Lines Services (DOLS) technology lets users replicate those applications for off-line use. The iNotes products will be available in the first half of this year, for a $50 per user licence fee. An OS/2 version is expected later in 2000.

John Thomson, executive vice-president, consulting services for United Systems Solutions Inc. in Toronto, pointed to DOLS as significant because companies want to have one interface to access “all functionality through that one interface.”

Of interest, USS is using Notes/Domino to “provide a common framework for tracking information about families and children to agencies around the province.” That installation includes about 80 offices for Ontario’s Children’s Aid Society, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society and the Jewish Family Service organizations. “It’s for the sharing of information and notifications, particularly as families move from one jurisdiction to another.