Lotus Pushes Domino Services

Company aims to ease Web collaboration; follows .Net, Exchange model

Count Lotus Development Corp. as the latest developer to try to turn its software into services for the Web.

The Cambridge, Mass., IBM subsidiary is creating tools that will make it easier to extend its Domino-based messaging and collaboration applications to the Web, a move that follows Microsoft Corp.s similar efforts around Exchange and .Net.

The centerpiece of Lotus announcements at its DevCon developer conference in Las Vegas next week will be a new Web services enablement kit that will allow developers to take components of Lotus collaboration applications and embed them as services in other Lotus applications or in non-Lotus Web applications.

An example of this would be taking a "presence" feature in Lotus Sametime instant messaging software that lets users know if others are online and embedding it in an online exchange application to let traders know who is involved in a given auction.

Another piece of Sametime could be used as a service to send an instant message to the appropriate person to authorize a trade before it is completed, Lotus officials said.

The company also eventually will add native support for Web services to its core collaboration applications, which include Sametime for chat, whiteboarding and application sharing and QuickPlace for online meetings and team collaboration.

Developers say Lotus move will make it easier for them to build business-to-business applications that streamline communications between enterprises. Lars Johansen, CEO of IT Factory Inc., a developer of applications that work with Domino and Exchange, said Lotus was turning Domino into a "full-fledged enterprise application platform."

"What theyre doing is taking the platform to the next level, very similar to [Microsofts] .Net," said Johansen, in Cambridge. "Theyre introducing Java and XML [Extensible Markup Language] as key standards, which makes it easier for the partners because theyre using standards instead of proprietary technology."

A less proprietary, Lotus-centric world would be good news for corporate developers as well, according to David Beckman, senior partner at Beckman and Hirsch, a Burlington, Iowa, law firm. Beckman uses Domino applications for his firms Web site and the Iowa State Bar Associations site.

Lotus Web services strategy sounds like it will offer more integration between Domino and Web development tools such as Macromedia Inc.s Dreamweaver and Flash and Adobe Systems Inc.s Photoshop, Beckman said. "[Domino] isnt quite as flashy as, say, Dreamweaver, so the more integration we can get with tools like that, the more itll be the best of both worlds. It would allow a more diverse group to use the [Domino] product."

Similarly, Microsoft at its Tech Ed developer conference in Atlanta next week will release its Mobile Information 2001 Server. The software will let developers give users of mobile devices access to data and resources in Exchange and other Microsoft servers.