Lotus is publicly leaping into bed with Microsoft while simultaneously delivering a kick in the teeth to Netscape.
Lotus announced last week it will bundle Internet Explorer 4.0 with Notes and SmartSuite, but that no similar deal has been made with Netscape.
Since early this year the company has bundled both browsers with its products, but that deal expires in September. So far, only the agreement with Microsoft has been publicly renewed.
The row hinges on Netscape breaking out parts of its Navigator browser from its Communicator browser suite. Lotus has claimed Netscape is reluctant to deliver just a browser without the mail and messaging functions also present in the Communicator package, which would compete with similar features in Lotus software.
However, Netscape countered that it has created a browser package specifically for Lotus to bundle with Notes, and that this will be announced tomorrow.
The company said Lotus has a three-year licensing agreement to use the product, codenamed Ratbert. But Lotus still maintains it has "no plans" to include the Netscape software on the same terms as IE.
"We have nothing to announce with Netscape at this time," stated Lotus UK comms product marketing manager Jim Moffat. "It is not clear whether we can achieve integration with Netscape's products on the same level as we are planning with Microsoft. "
Moffat hinted that part of the difficulty in the negotiations may be Netscape's increasingly aggressive stance on competing with Lotus in the groupware space. "Netscape is trying to take our market share," he said.
"Lotus is going to bundle both browsers, and by this ploy is just trying to publicly negotiate on terms," claimed Sam Sethi, marketing manager at Netscape UK. "Lotus needs to have a browser interface because the Notes client is too expensive. It is in Lotus' interest to take both browsers, but it sees Netscape as more of a competitor in the groupware market than Microsoft."
He added: "Lotus is torn because the evil empire of Microsoft is the last thing you'd want to go to bed with."
Microsoft was unavailable for comment. The next release of Notes, version 4.6, which will include IE 4.0, is due out on September 10.
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