LOTUSPHERE: Lotus, Microsoft integration due this year

LOTUSPHERE: Lotus, Microsoft integration due this year

Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft and Lotus Development, though serious software rivals, work well together, Lotus chief Jeff Papows insisted yesterday. The fruits of those collaborative efforts will be seen later this year when Microsoft Outlook users will be able to access their e-mail and calendars via Lotus Domino servers.

At a press briefing here yesterday, Papows and IBM senior vice president and group executive for software John M. Thompson gave a few more details on what was offered earlier in the day when Papows first announced the Lotus-Microsoft deal. IBM owns Lotus, and Thompson and other IBM officials typically participate in various sessions and press briefings at the annual Lotusphere trade show here, which runs through to Thursday.

Also on hand was Al Zollar, IBM general manager of the network computing software division, who will take over as Lotus president and CEO on February 1, when Papows' recently announced resignation from those positions takes effect. Papows and Thompson, however, handled most of the questions from reporters.

As for the collaboration with Microsoft, Papows said, "If you perceive there to be a turf war then you're reading someone else's legacy on this." The companies, he asserted, have a good relationship.

Beyond integration of Outlook messaging software and the Domino server, Lotus also intends to offer more support for Microsoft's Office application suite. Papows acknowledged that Microsoft leads in that market and said that because of that dominance it is prudent for Lotus to give customers what they want, which is boosted support for Office and for Outlook.

Papows also announced during his opening keynote speech that Lotus will soon offer Domino Offline Services. At the afternoon press briefing yesterday he said that the service will allow Outlook users to have the same capability on the Domino server as Notes users have, including the ability to replicate data. The services will allow users to replicate data and then read and work with the data offline. Data access will be possible via Internet browser software.

Open architecture and the ability to work with a range of software from various vendors on different platforms are important to users, Papows said. If users are shut out because software and platforms don't interoperate, that could cause problems for vendors whose wares won't work with competing software, he said.

Asked if he perceives the upcoming release of Microsoft Exchange 2000 as a threat, Papows said that everything Microsoft does in terms of software is a possible threat to Lotus. Microsoft's Exchange and Lotus' Notes and Domino are the front-runners in the groupware software market. While such a market situation might seem to run counter to Papows' happy talk regarding collaboration between the often fierce competitors, he quickly added that he welcomes the challenge.

At times, "it gets incredibly intense. Let's face it, there's some real Type A personalities on both sides of the fence," he said, referring to people who tend to be over-achieving and highly strung.

Various Microsoft employees who work on the Exchange product line are at Lotusphere, checking out what Lotus is up to, but Papows said that is to be expected in a competitive environment.

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