Lotus lays it on the line at Lotusphere Release 5 delayed . . . again

Lotus lays it on the line at Lotusphere Release 5 delayed . . . again

Not even one more delay of a major upgrade that's already a year late could dampen the enthusiasm of Lotus Notes and Domino customers last week at Lotusphere '99.

At Lotus' annual customer conference here, 8500 IT professionals and business partners learned that the Notes 5.0 client and Domino 5.0 server upgrades will not ship until at least mid February. The software is now scheduled to ship five quarters later than the original target Lotus set at Lotusphere two years ago.

Lotus officials highlighted the many anticipated Notes 5.0 and Domino 5.0 features. The company also announced:

An agreement with America Online under which the companies will give users of Notes 5.0's Headlines page and Lotus' new Sametime collaboration software integrated access to AOL's news content.

Domino server support for Linux later this year.

The sale of five million Notes seat licences in the fourth quarter of 1998 and 14 million for the year, record totals that bring the number of Notes seats shipped to date to 34 million.

An effort with parent company IBM to spearhead a commercial research consortium of knowledge management experts called the Institute for Knowledge Management.

While it was no shock to Lotus watchers, CEO Jeff Papows nevertheless gingerly presented his keynote audience with the news that there would be no 5.0 gold available at Lotusphere.

"We need two or three more weeks of polishing," he said. "You will have the product, I promise you, in February."

Papows' acknowledgment of another slip and new delivery pledge elicited a half-minute of raucous clapping, an outburst Papows said "wasn't the expected reaction". However, one attendee later noted that Papows shouldn't have been too surprised, given that he had personally urged an earlier assemblage to back his bad news with their applause at the keynote.

Despite a smattering of training concerns, customers were impressed with the new Notes client. The software features a radically different browserlike navigation system and a Headlines page that presents important e-mail, tasks, appointments and news at a glance.

Ernie Chiavaroli, development manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Sydney, said he was eagerly awaiting the native support for content types and Internet protocols in the 5.0 release - for example, HTML, Multi-purpose Internet Mail Extensions and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol - that will allow developers to write an application once and have it accessed by a Notes client or Web browser. "It will reduce the time we need to develop these types of applications."

However, Mark Levitt, an analyst at International Data Corp, says he was not bowled over by the release.

"Version 5.0 promises to be a big step in the area of usability, but it's yet to be seen whether it will deliver on those promises," Levitt says, citing the new calendar printing capabilities and native Internet standards support in 5.0 as examples.

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