Microsoft Zeros In on Lotus

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2004-01-19

Microsoft Zeros In on Lotus

A cadre of former Lotus software employees is leading a reinvigorated push at Microsoft Corp. to lure Lotus customers to .Net with new products and services.

Over the next six to eight months, the Redmond, Wash., company plans to roll out a series of initiatives, including a tool kit, due this summer, that allows Domino developers to create Notes- and Domino-based Web services using Microsoft development tools such as Visual Studio .Net and Visual Basic.

The effort is the latest by Microsoft to seize what some view as an opportunity left open by the IBM division, based in Cambridge, Mass., as it nudges Lotus developers to Lotus Workplace—an IBM WebSphere-based development platform. Lotus introduced the platform a year ago.

"Given IBMs strategy for Workplace, a lot of Lotus customers are going to be taking advantage of the opportunity to re-evaluate their investments," said Jim Bernardo, lead product manager for Microsoft Exchange.

To bring the effort to life, Microsoft has beefed up its ranks with former Lotus officials. Gary Devendorf, a technology evangelist in Microsofts server division and former application development product manager at Lotus, and Charlie Kaufman, security architect for Microsofts Common Language Runtime group, joined Microsoft in the past year. Kaufman was chief security architect for Lotus Notes.

According to Bernardo, who was a 10-year Lotus veteran before joining Microsoft four years ago, nearly all members of the former Domino.Workflow team are employed by Microsoft.

The as-yet-unnamed tool kit is being shepherded by Devendorf, who said that once a developer creates the .Net Web services, they will be consumed by Microsoft applications such as the Office suite, SharePoint and Exchange.

Next page: Is the timing right?


Devendorf and his former Lotus colleagues say the timing is right to move on their former employer. One opening they see is LotusScript, the language most Notes and Domino applications are developed in. In Devendorfs view, IBM has abandoned the language and is pushing developers to Java and WebSphere.

Carl Kraenzel, IBM senior technical staff member, conceded that Notes and Domino application development technologies are focused more on Java and the Web today than LotusScript but said the language is being enhanced, as are Notes and Domino.

"We have more bodies working on programming constructs than we ever have," Kraenzel said. "Gary seems to be suggesting that were walking away from Notes as a programming tool, and thats far from the case."

Still, Devendorf contends that a switch to .Net would be relatively easy. LotusScript is "basically 90 percent the same as Visual Basic," he said, adding that Microsofts development tools are a smaller leap for Domino developers than making the move to Java, the language required for Lotus Workplace.

"Its hard to understand Java without a computer science background. But Notes developers come from business departments, not computer science or IS departments," Devendorf said.

"It may make sense to evaluate .Net, and I do have one colleague who is leaning toward it," said Domino developer David Taylor, senior systems analyst at T. Rowe Price Group Inc., in Baltimore. "Java, however, is more mature, more well-understood and more accepted, I think, as a development platform."

Rocket Fuel