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Lotus enters hosting game, some ASPs not too thrilled

Lotus enters hosting game, some ASPs not too thrilled

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Lotus is taking a new turn in its application service provider strategy and will now host some of its own collaborative solutions.

Today the company announced that it will rent an integrated hosted offering that will feature Sametime 2.0, its instant messaging tool, QuickPlace 2.0, its Web-based collaborative workspaces, and e-meeting capabilities.

In the Lotus integrated offering, which can be branded for a particular company or product, the end user sees three panes "connect," "meetings," and "workspaces."

The "connect" screen uses Sametime to enable a user to search to see if someone is online, build and use a buddy list or send an instant message.

Under "meetings," a user can schedule appointments and view online meetings.

"Workspaces" is the place for Web-based collaboration using QuickPlace.

In addition to the integrated solution, Lotus will also offer collaboration modules to allow third-party developers to subscribe to specific hosted functionality like instant messaging or e-meeting capabilities. The developer would then offer up a customized application with Lotus hosting these components within it.

Both hosted offerings are branded under the name "Lotus Collaboration Services."

"It's our first foot into hosting and making software available as a service," said Lee Todd, Lotus senior vice president of messaging and collaboration, who hinted this may be the first step in a new direction.

He said iNotes Web Access looks like it lends itself to hosting fairly easily.

The announcement isn't sitting too well with some of the ASPs that already offer those applications and who may now be competing for customers.

"My first reaction is that it's very disappointing. It's bad news for anybody in my space," said Julie Palen, president of Cambridge, Ma.-based ASP Internoded Inc., which already hosts Notes and versions of both Sametime and QuickPlace.

"On the flip side, I'm skeptical that they'll be successful in actually doing this," Palen added. She pointed out that it has been two years since Lotus made a major Notes release and said the company would be better served focusing on its core competency.

West Chester, Pa.-based e-mail host United Messaging currently offers Notes and plans to feature other Lotus applications in the future. The company feels Lotus' decision to get in the hosting game only validates the model.

"I don't know if it's going to have an impact on us. We're not just an ASP," Product Marketing Manager Carol Vilardo said. "Our value add is our outsourced services. We feel we're an 'ASP Plus.' We add a lot more."

Lotus Collaboration Services is currently in pilot stage with select customers. The single, integrated offering will be available in the first quarter of 2001. The hosted, embedded collaboration modules should be ready in the second half of the year, Lotus said.

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