Lotus this week will seek to rally its developer community behind Notes and Domino as an open and versatile platform worthy of a critical role in the developers' business plans, even as it fends off increased competition and an uncertain upgrade rollout.
At the Lotus Developers Conference (DevCon) '99 in San Francisco, the IBM subsidiary will detail forthcoming tools and APIs, and will position the platform relative to major software architectures.
The developer gathering comes as Lotus continues to cede ground to Microsoft in the groupware market, according to figures from International Data Corporation (IDC).
The conference is also accompanied by rumblings about possible changes in the management of Lotus, which has been given a relatively free hand under IBM's ownership.
Speculation includes a potential top-level executive shuffle and the prospect of increasing IBM influence on the decision process.
Despite the less-than-rosy competitive returns, the Notes/Domino platform is critical to IBM, both as the hub for new and emerging technologies and as a generator of related software, hardware, and service revenues. Because of that, Lotus may be spared a strict accounting of direct sales as the measure of Lotus' performance, according to Ian Campbell, an analyst at IDC.
"IBM is looking at this 3-plus billion-dollar investment, and maybe seeing only a couple of hundred million dollars in Notes[/Domino revenues], but there are also significant follow-on sales for RS/6000 and System 390 and others, as well as service and support," Campbell said.
As a result, the prospect of tighter IBM control seems less likely, according to Campbell.
DevCon announcements will include the extension of the Domino Designer toolkit's hooks to third-party tools, programming interfaces for the company's Sametime synchronous communications, and QuickPlace virtual meeting-room applications, as well as APIs for Domino Media Connection Services for streaming media, according to Lotus officials.
Lotus will also unveil LotusScript scripting tools and map out its plans for supporting Microsoft's Component Object Model, according to the officials.
In addition, focus will be given to further clarifying the positioning of Domino and IBM's WebSphere Web application server platform, according to Steve Mills, general manager of IBM's software solutions group.
A common element for WebSphere and Domino will be their support of such components as Enterprise JavaBeans, which will allow developers to build applications that consist of code stored in both WebSphere and Notes, Mills explained.
The conference is also expected to cover Notes/Domino support of Extensible Markup Language, platform performance boosts, and mobile computing links. Linus Torvalds will offer a keynote address. Lotus has promised a Linux version of Notes.www.lotus.com.