The bloom may be off the rose for network computers, but Lotus Development is preparing the September release of a new eSuite set of Java applications with an eye on PCs.
Version 1.5 of eSuite will arrive two months before Microsoft's Office 2000 in November and brings into clearer focus the battle lines between the Windows/ Office/Hydra version of business productivity applications and Lotus' solution of Java-based applets.
The new version will use a model of dynamically matching the best Java virtual machine (JVM) to the client platform and task.
The eSuite user interface will also allow access to files anywhere, similar to the Windows 98 Active Desktop, Lotus officials said.
The goal for Lotus now is to test a variety of JVMs and guarantee a rich set of functions to client platforms with a Java-enabled browser or component. With the first version of eSuite, a rich level of functions could not be attained on all JVMs and platforms, Lotus conceded.
According to observers, both the Lotus and Microsoft approaches have merits.
"If you want to give everyone in your organisation a similar desktop, to see the same thing regardless of it being a terminal or a PC, you need to go with [Microsoft] Windows Terminal or Citrix [Picasso]," said Rob Enderle, a senior analyst at the Giga Information Group, in the US. "But if you want the least costly way to add functions to a group of terminals then the [Lotus eSuite] way works."
Some systems integrators like the idea of mixing Windows emulation and Java applets.
Lotus expects users to employ a hybrid of computing for a while. A future desktop PC may include some full-feature applications that run locally, but the bulk of activity would take place via the eSuite workspace.
Lotus also plans to integrate eSuite 1.5 and Notes/Domino 5.0, due this fourth quarter. Users of the browser-enabled Notes client, for example, could also use the eSuite applications from the same client.
New components of eSuite 1.5 are high-fidelity file viewers, spell checking and import filters.
The DevPack shipped in March at a price of $197 RRP per user for individual developers and at $2947 RRP for a single-processor server licence. Lotus said the prices for eSuite 1.5 would most likely remain the same.
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