As its annual Lotusphere user conference kicks off in Orlando today, Lotus is expected to make several messaging and development announcements; chief among them are two initiatives designed to appease Domino developers who fear their platform is disappearing.
First, Lotus will make available a Lotus Domino toolkit as an extension to the WebSphere Studio Application Developer. Code-named "Project Montreal," the toolkit is designed to increase the comfort level of Domino programmers in an ever-expanding J2EE world. It will integrate WebSphere and Domino applications and let developers work with the J2EE-based WebSphere in a more familiar environment.
Looking forward, Lotus will outline a plan to let developers work in Domino, but output code as J2EE components. Those components will then be able to be embedded in non-Domino, J2EE-based applications. Offerings around this initiative, currently called "Project Seoul," won't be released until 2004.
The moves are likely to counteract feedback it received at last year's Lotusphere, when Lotus announced a strong commitment to J2EE that caused some to fear that it would phase out Domino as a development platform.
"We definitely want to let folks know that it's not a question of WebSphere or Domino, but WebSphere and Domino," said Dean Marsh, Lotus' director of messaging solutions. "There's a significant investment in Domino applications today, and those applications need to be maintained."
You've got newer mail
Today Lotus will also release the beta of a new next-generation mail system that targets basic mail and calendaring users, such as assembly line workers in manufacturing. Currently being beta tested by Daimler Chrysler, the browser-based system will integrate with Domino, as well as other mail systems. It will go head to head with similar offerings from Critical Path Software Inc., and Rockliffe Inc.
Marsh said the as-yet-unnamed system will be scalable and emphasize a low total cost of ownership. It's expected to roll out in the second quarter of 2003.
Lotus is also adding new collaborative capabilities to WebSphere Portal Extend with new portlets that add integrated instant messaging. An "internal phonebook" application, called PeopleFinder, will serve as a company directory that features built-in online awareness and instant messaging capabilities using Sametime, as well as the ability to instantly initiate e-meetings.
The company is announcing new presence awareness support for mobile devices with the release of Sametime Everyplace 3.0, the wireless component to Sametime. On top of the WAP browsers, smart phones and pocket PCs already supported, Sametime Everyplace will add Palm devices and next-generation pagers.
In the e-learning space, Lotus plans to introduce the new Lotus Learning Management System, a next generation technologies-based platform that lets companies customize user interfaces and courseware, provides offline access and adds reporting functions to track students' progress.
From a leadership standpoint, outgoing Lotus general manager Al Zollar will appear on stage to open the show alongside his replacement, Ambuj Goyal, the longtime IBM executive who comes out of the company's Solutions and Strategies division. Goyal had been responsible for WebSphere business integration strategy, a background many say prepares him well for his work at Lotus.
For the 5,000 expected attendees, Lotusphere is largely an opportunity to learn more about the technologies they work with everyday. In fact, more than half of the 118 people who cast votes in the current SearchDomino.com poll said getting product and technical information was their primary reason for attending the show.
Heidi Leroy-Short, a software manager at Grosvenor Group Holdings in London, will be attending her third consecutive Lotusphere in hopes of learning more about upgrading to ND6, the latest version of Notes and Domino released last fall. Leroy-Short relied on material gathered in Orlando to prepare for a move from R4 to R5 two years ago. She will undoubtedly be joined in the Lotusphere labs, because this is the year many Notes shops are expected to upgrade to ND6.
Lotus said the product show floor is sold out with 165 vendors set to showcase their wares.
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