Lotus beckons network computer users to eSuite

Lotus Development Corp. has launched new software that should make network computers a more appealing choice for federal government users. Called eSuite the product family consists of Java-based business applications that will work on any client including a PC but their greatest initial appeal should be to network computer users who are more cost-conscious.

"The initial run will be corporations and agencies trying to solve the cost-of-ownership problem " said Eliza Royal director of applet product management at Lotus. "The obvious people would be those who want to replace more expensive terminals with network computers but we expect eSuite to be applicable to others who don't need a full-blown spreadsheet - for example like you find in Microsoft Office or Lotus SmartSuite."

Most end users today do not use all their business desktop applications which is a waste of disk space and money Royal said. eSuite is a scaled-down office suite that resides on the network server and lets users access an application such as a spreadsheet or a word processing application when they need it.

"eSuite is an alternative to full-featured suites or terminals " said Michael Sheehan director of Lotus' government sales and marketing. "Lotus eSuite software will help government reduce the costs of owning and upgrading software and will deliver to workers' desktops applications that will help them be more productive."

Users who replace a full office suite with eSuite will reduce support and maintenance costs and users who employ terminals and move to eSuite will have "more tools to get their job done at a much lower cost than giving them full-featured office suites " Sheehan said.

eSuite consists of two product lines: eSuite WorkPlace and eSuite DevPack. WorkPlace geared toward end users includes a browser a file manager spreadsheet a word processor presentation graphics e-mail a calendar and an address book. DevPack is a set of tools that let users build interactive Web applications based on Java. It consists of a word processor a spreadsheet charting a project scheduler and a set of data access applets that let users share data from one applet to another without scripting.

Greg Blatnik vice president of Zona Research Inc. said eSuite is the first formally packaged product designed for network computers. "It creates a category of products that hasn't existed before " he said. "It creates a necessary element if network computers are to go anywhere. This gives the network computer the catalyst it has been waiting for."

A network computer is an inexpensive hardware device designed to access applications on a network server or the Internet. The more applications available for the product the more attractive it will be to users said Randy Brasche marketing manager at NCI an Oracle Corp. affiliate that sells the software that makes network computers work.

"The more applications that run on network computers the more choice users have " he said. "Look at the history of Apple Computer [Inc.] Claris [Apple's software development arm] came in and opened up more doors for the company."

NCI said it will deliver eSuite applications with its NCI platform. Oracle meanwhile said it will ship eSuite applets with its InterOffice product. Other companies including IBM Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. said they also will support eSuite.

The products will be available in the first quarter of next year through Lotus resellers and off the General Services Administration schedule.

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