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Insiders give new ASP Solution Pack cautious thumbs up

The reaction to Lotus Development Corp.'s new ASP Solution Pack seems to be positive, but some industry experts believe only time will tell how successful Lotus' initiative will be.

On Monday the Cambridge, Mass. subsidiary of IBM officially launched its new ASP Solution Pack, designed to make it easier for ASPs to host its applications �- including Domino Web-mail, Sametime instant messaging, and the QuickPlace team collaboration tool.

Robert Mahowald, a collaborative computing analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said despite the marketing hype, Lotus is not new to the application hosting market.

"It's a fairly dramatic departure for them, but they have been doing hosting services for a long time. This might make it sound like they're newcomers to this game, though they're not," said Mahowald.

Boston-based Summit Strategies service director Dwight Davis said the ASP Solution Pack might allow Lotus to provide not only better product presentation, but also better service.

"The product portion of (the applications) is just part of the story for Lotus," Davis said. "They've had good products in the past, but they've fallen a little short when it came to supporting them."

Tom Witkin, president of The SpeedWork Company, a Sudbury, Mass. developer of sales, marketing, and workgroup project management software based on Lotus Notes and Domino, said the move by Lotus brings legitimacy to the ASP model and will take some of the uncertainty out the long-term decision-making process for his company and other ISVs.

"The new strategy and offering will open up a much broader range of ASP options for ISVs like The SpeedWork Company," Witkin said.

"Also, the promise of native integration with Raven and other Lotus collaborative services on a fundamentally more stable platform fits exactly with our strategic direction," he said. "This is exciting stuff."

Witkin added that his company has worked with Lotus' earlier hosting platform, Domino Instant! Host, and despite technical issues in the past, he believes Lotus' hosting model will take off.

Laurie McCabe, vice president at Summit Strategies, said what really sticks out about the ASP Solution Pack is its pricing model.

"The way they're providing the pricing to the ASPs, by giving them a pretty low entry point with the $10,000 minimum and then letting them pretty much pay as they go... I think that's the most interesting part of it," McCabe said.

She added that Lotus' pricing plan would attract the attention of ASPs because it is a simple way to provide a collaborative solution without a heavy up-front cost.

Mahowald said even though the price tag for hosted Lotus applications may be slightly larger, it will be worthwhile for ASPs to have the ability to bundle so many Lotus applications with features from other vendors.

"It's a way for [Lotus] to value-add and pump up the service. They're making a bet that the buyers are going to find it feature rich and it will meet their needs," he said.

McCabe believes it is too soon to tell whether the ASP Solution Pack will be successful because much of that will depend on the willingness of ASPs and ISVs to work with it and mask some of its complexities.

"It's a tough market and the competition is coming from everywhere," she said. "I think it's still too early to tell if these guys can take it and really run with it."

Mahowald said Lotus just may be on its way to becoming the mid-market's one-stop-shopping destination for hosted messaging applications.

"I think that they will have a lot of successes, especially with their huge business partner network to get them into that medium enterprise space they're after," he said.

Dig Deeper on Domino Resources - Part 4

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