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Lotusphere keeps users in the know

Lotus CEO Al Zollar told Lotusphere 2001 Orlando attendees his company is offering a new family of wireless servers, that the company plans to start hosting Lotus Collaboration Services and now has firm dates for its knowledge management product line.

ORLANDO, Fla. _- Outlining Lotus' goal of becoming "the bind of e-business," CEO Al Zollar welcomed 10,000 users to Lotusphere 2001 by introducing a new family of wireless servers, announcing the company would effectively function as an ASP and setting a release date for the long-awaited final component of its knowledge management strategy.

"Today you have to be nimble, you have to be quick and now there's a new candlestick you have to jump over. You have to have the ability to share what you know," Zollar said.

To that end, Lotus unveiled Domino Everyplace Servers, a set of mobile and wireless offerings due out in the first half of this year. The new services aim to add collaborative capabilities to wireless devices and move beyond mere mobile e-mail.

The new Everyplace Servers include an XML-based Domino Everyplace Access server for microbrowser devices based on Wireless Markup Language, Domino Everyplace Sync server for synchronization and Domino Everyplace Enterprise server for application development.

The company also announced its intention to start hosting Lotus Collaboration Services. Customers can subscribe to a single, integrated hosted offering for instant messaging, e-meetings and virtual workplace capabilities. Or, they can rent specific hosted functionality as embedded links within their own Web-based solutions.

The hosted offerings will be priced on a pay-as-you-go model.

Zollar stopped short of calling Lotus an ASP, instead referring to this new initiative as a "Lotus branded e-utility."

At a conference built around the slogan "In the Know," perhaps the most highly anticipated announcement and demonstration was Lotus Discovery Server, the long-delayed final piece in Lotus's knowledge management pie. Available in March, the server is an advanced data search and expertise location tool to help an organization better identify the knowledge that exists on its staff.

"I know this product is overdue; no one knows that better than I do," Zollar said.

Lotus Discovery Server and Lotus K-station knowledge portal, a personalized single access point for information retrieval and collaboration, will be branded as "Lotus Knowledge Discovery System." Lotus unveiled K-station at Lotusphere Europe in September.

This morning's keynote made no mention of Raven, the code name for Lotus' knowledge management undertaking.

Aaron Fahlman, who works in network support for Vancouver- based law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin, is attending Lotusphere specifically to get a look at Discovery Server. The demonstration impressed him greatly, he said.

"Being able to call up an [in-house] expert is very valuable for a national firm and the translation services would be great for us," he said. "For a team of lawyers to be able to come together and work on a case � that's essential."

"I could see K-Station replacing our [corporate] intranet," said JR Rambow, a programmer at Affina, a customer relationship management company in Peoria,Ill.

Lotus also previewed the next release of Domino, dubbed Rnext. New features will include the ability to multi-task while downloading files, printing documents or replicating; a new calendar with a multiple time zone display; and selective replication.

Rnext will also add support for native XML classes, Web Dav and LotusScript to call Java classes.

During the demonstration, the audience may have been most impressed with iNotes, Lotus' Web-based mobile e-mail product.

"INotes looks awesome, now I can see it as an independent product," said Patrick Corey, a senior analyst at Affina.

"The fact that nothing has to be in stalled in the PC makes it easier for the user," according to Tesla Sabatier, a Lotus Notes developer at Hellmann Worldwide Logistics in Miami. "The less training, the better."

Noticeably absent from the two hour-long keynote address, however, was any mention of Lotus's planned internal reorganization. Last week, word leaked of an e-mail sent to Lotus employees outlining the company's intention to restructure things.

Amid the technical demonstrations, Lotus executives peppered their comments with references to larger customers, including Exxon, Mitsubishi and Phillips International.

The company, however, saved its highest-profile customer reference for last. Self-proclaimed technology buff and acclaimed movie director Francis Ford Coppola took the stage and told the Domino crowd that he's been using Notes for seven years.

For added star-power, humorist Al Franken emceed the opening session, describing the button-downed Zollar as "one of the hippest men I've ever met."

searchDomino editor Joyce Chutchian contributed to this report.

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