Does Lotus have a future with DMS?

Although the company has a shrinking Defense Message System market share, Lotus Development Corp. is still an important part of the program, according to the armed services' DMS program manager.

"While Lotus is not happy with their market share, they're a viable part" of high-grade DMS and Medium Grade Services (MGS) for individual messaging, said Jerry Bennis, the DMS program manager at the Defense Information Systems Agency. His office also is doing MGS work with Netscape Communications Corp. and some Novell Inc. users, in addition to Microsoft Corp., he said.

Microsoft gobbled up one of the last Lotus strongholds in August when the Army decided that, for tactical applications, the service would use the DMS version of Microsoft Exchange on Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Solaris operating system. The Army program executive officer for command, control and communications systems, Maj. Gen. Steve Boutelle, made that decision because of software development problems with Lotus running on Solaris.

The Army's garrison version of DMS uses Microsoft, and the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are deploying Microsoft versions of DMS. That doesn't leave much for Lotus.

However, Lotus is still committed to the DMS program, said Elena Fernandez, a company spokewoman.

And there are still DMS users at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the intelligence services, Bennis said.

"The intelligence community is very interested in using Lotus," particularly Release 5 of Lotus Notes and Domino, he said. But the intelligence agencies won't transition to DMS until 2003, so they still have time to make a change to Microsoft.

"We've had some serious discussions with Lotus. We're working with them to ensure they're a part of DMS," Bennis said.

In the early 1990s, Lotus Notes was a pioneer messaging product because of its ability to connect groups of users together to share documents and messages. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Forest Service, the General Services Administration and the Marine Corps became big users.

But Notes' early success got Microsoft's attention, and the company emulated some of Lotus' best features with its Exchange product. Microsoft also made discounted licensing deals with large organizations and criticized Lotus Notes for high support costs. Eventually, the company was able to get the better of Lotus, which is now an IBM Corp. subsidiary.

In January, Lotus received another blow when Art Money, the Defense Department's chief information officer, announced that the armed services had selected Microsoft's NetMeeting and Sun's SunForum as the basis for the Defense Collaborative Tool Suite.

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