Lotus is close to shipping the first of its new range of rentable applications, according to US sources.
Instant TeamRoom, now in beta, will be the leader in a line of such applications and is part of Lotus' strategy to broaden the appeal of Domino, the latest version of Notes. US reports say the product will ship this month, although Lotus UK said this was merely "speculation".
TeamRoom is to be licensed by ISPs, who will resell the service. The software enables businesses to setup discussion groups hosted by the ISP. Users could also establish virtual business communities in the form of mini-intranets as needed. These operate outside the corporate firewall, and can be shared by employees within the company or with external partners and clients. Security is assured by protecting the communities with passwords.
"This is a very good way of broadening access to customers," commented Richard Buckley, an analyst at IDG. "Any software vendor that can come up with great ideas like this will capture new markets."
TeamRoom, formerly known as Domino.Collaboration, was first announced last October. The change of name reflects the message that TeamRoom does not need Domino, but can be used with any Web client or browser. The product forms part of Lotus' strategy of wooing small and medium businesses. In April the company introduced Lotus Go, an entry level Web server for the small business market.
Netcom is the first ISP to agree to license the service. The company has already created 35 TeamRooms in a beta trial of the product. In the UK, Lotus is in negotiations with BT and other major service providers.
However, none of these has yet publicly announced plans to sell the product.
Positioning TeamRoom, Victor Aberdeen, Domino product manager at Lotus UK, said: "This is useful for anybody who doesn't necessarily work inside an office but wants to share information." He said the product will be economical to use, because it offers users the benefits of groupware without having to invest in expensive software and services. Pricing of TeamRoom will be set individually by ISPs.
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