Lotus introduces new Notes client

ORLANDO, Fla.—- The next version of Lotus Notes, scheduled to ship in the second half of 1998, will feature a revamped user interface modeled after a World Wide Web browser that is designed to cut training costs for large customers, including federal agencies, according to Lotus Development Corp. officials gathered at the fifth annual Lotusphere technical conference here last week.

With Release 5.0 of the Notes client, Lotus also will introduce a single e-mail client that ultimately will replace its Notes Mail, Notes Desktop and cc:Mail clients. The new mail client will integrate features of Lotus' Organ-izer Personal Information Manager and its Weblicator—- a PIM for downloading and managing information from the Web—- for a ''single Lotus client,'' company officials said.

Other innovations in the Notes client of interest to government users include support for such standards as S/MIME, secure messaging, the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol Version 3 and Post Office Protocol Version 3, which is the enhanced standard for managing communications between a client and messaging server. The new version also supports wireless and handheld devices.

These represent the most significant enhancements to Notes since the 4.0 version was released in 1996, company officials said. Release 5.0 will be ''radically different from versions 4.5 and 4.6,'' said Rajesh Patil, a software architect with Lotus' Iris Associates Division, which develops Notes.

The enhancements come as Lotus is seeing continued strong demand for Notes and its counterpart server software, Domino. Jeff Papows, president of Lotus, said worldwide Domino sales were up more than 200 percent in 1997, while Notes client software sales were up 130 percent. He said the installed base for Notes topped 20 million, a goal Lotus had hoped to reach by 2000.

"We continue to have success with Notes in the government market," said Keith Attenborough, product manager for Lotus' Defense Message System Program, under which a modified version of Notes is being built for secure military communications. Among the firm's new federal customers is the Army's legal office.

Attenborough expects Notes 5.0 to continue that momentum in the government market. The single, integrated Notes client will be a positive step for Lotus in the government market, Attenborough said.

Simplifying a Decision

''Having a single, integrated client will simplify an agency's procurement decision,'' Attenborough said. ''It should also reduce an agency's cost of ownership'' by cutting training costs, he said.

Mark Levitt, a research manager at International Data Corp., Framingham, Mass., said the new client has more of a Web browser look that many users may find more intuitive and comfortable than its old interface. "The Web browser is the client of the present-future," Levitt said. The browser look "has a low learning curve, and it's one that can be leveraged over multiple-client [platforms]," he said.

The new Notes client will feature native Hypertext Markup Language support for basic Web access, but it will continue to support other Web browsers, including Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Exchange and Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator. In addition, the Notes client software will offer "push" technology that will allow users to subscribe to Notes databases and Internet sites for updated information.

Lotus will be offering financial incentives to existing customers of Lotus Notes and cc:Mail to move to the new client software. ''We want to move everybody to Release 5 as quickly as possible,'' said Eileen Rudden, senior vice president for communications products.

On the server side, Release 5.0 of Domino will offer improved scalability (beyond eight processors), increased redundancy and support for larger databases—- all features that large customers such as federal agencies need, the company said. Lotus will also provide easier administration and better integration with Windows NT. Lotus also announced at the conference that Domino had received certification to run with Microsoft's BackOffice systems management software.

A companion Web page designer product, called Domino Designer, will be improved to compete more directly against Microsoft's FrontPage, officials said.

In other news, Lotus announced it will ship next month gold beta of its eSuite software for network computers and managed PCs. The software, which is a streamlined office suite written in Java, will run initially on IBM NCs based on the Unix AIX operating system. Versions for Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. NCs and Windows NT PCs will follow.

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