In the first step of the evolution, Lotus plans to rebuild the Lotus product line to conform with the Java 2 platform for easier integration with IBM's other software products, Michael Loria, Lotus's director of advanced collaboration, said in a telephone interview from Lotusphere, the annual developers conference being held this week in Orlando, Fla. But in the long term, Lotus products will enable a company to take any single function, such as instant messaging or calendaring, and integrate it in an E-commerce application used by suppliers or partners. "It will significantly broaden the use of collaboration," Loria says. The integration mechanism would be emerging Web-services standards, a stack of technologies based on extensible markup language, or XML.
While praising Lotus's strategy, analyst David Marshak of the Patricia Seybold Group says customers will not be ready for such a transition anytime soon. "There are a strong group of people who are invested in the current makeup of the product," Marshak says. "It's going to be very difficult for them to move to a different business model and a different conceptual model of how things work."
Today, Lotus makes a suite of packaged applications that include Notes and Domino for E-mail, calendaring, and group scheduling; SameTime for instant messaging; and QuickPlace for setting up online workspaces that enable project teams to communicate and share documents. Over the next 18 months, the software will be rebuilt on the Java 2 Enterprise Edition to conform to IBM's other software products. Of particular importance is IBM WebSphere, a Java-based product suite that provides a platform for building and running E-commerce software and corporate portals and connecting those applications to back-office systems.
By moving the Lotus line over to the latest version of J2EE, in-house developers, for example, will be able to integrate Lotus products within an employee portal running on the WebSphere platform. IBM has long been a supporter of Java, originally created by Sun Microsystems but adopted by many other companies, including IBM rivals Oracle and BEA Systems Inc. Java's strongest competitor is Windows, Microsoft's platform for running enterprise-level applications.
In the future, specific capabilities within Lotus software will be exposed using Web-services standards, so they can be plugged into any supporting Web application. "But we're a very long way from that," Marshak says.
Also at Lotusphere Monday:- IBM announced that the beta release of version 6 of Lotus Notes and Domino is scheduled for next month. Enhancements include support for Java Server Pages in Domino for a more standard method of delivering content to a Web browser. Pricing was not released for the products, which will ship in the third quarter.
- IBM said its Tivoli performance-analysis and management tools would be available as part of Domino's administration tools. The added management capabilities would be available in Domino 6 for an additional price, which was not released.