Lotus will follow in Corel's footsteps and develop a Java version of its Smartsuite applications, as part of what it claims is the world's largest Java development programme.
The move lends further credibility to the thin client's challenge to the PC model. Lotus stressed that the new version of Smartsuite, which should be available in the first half of next year, will be very different to the PC packages, offering a subset of those capabilities for low end users.
"It is often said that 80 per cent of people use only 20 per cent of the features in an application," commented Larry Roshfeld, general manager of business applications at Lotus. He claimed that requirements of users working with thin clients on the Internet are very different to those on a PC. Therefore, the Java version of Smartsuite will be "small and streamlined" and low cost, providing the basic features required by an occasional or budget user.
This argument is likely to be used by any software house entering the NC world, to avoid undercutting the existing PC packages by providing a Java version with the same features at lower cost. However, the plan to release Smartsuite for Java shows that Lotus is taking the advent of the thin client seriously. "Of course a Java version can be used with a browser on any platform, including a PC or Mac, but the logical place for such software will be network computers," said Lotus.
Also on the Java front, Lotus is rewriting its Components applets for Notes in Java to make them cross-platform. Again, this shows a subtle move away from the PC environment. Current Notes components are ActiveX controls and so are Windows-centric, and Lotus admitted some resellers have criticised this, claiming they sell Notes on the basis of being cross-platform.
The first working prototype of a Java application from Lotus - cc:mail - was demonstrated on Tuesday but precise timing of Java releases remains vague. Lotus has already said it will support Sun's Javabeans architecture for reusable software components through its Domino server.
John Throckmorton, senior vice president at Lotus, would not reveal the scale of the IBM-Lotus Java development programme but said he believes it is the largest underway by any vendor and that it would end up costing "many, many million".
Last week, Corel shipped a preview of its Java office suite, which it sees as key in its contest for Microsoft market share.
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