getting the attention these days but watch out for Lotus Notes
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #369 November 19, 1996 High Tech Office
science love to look at paradigm shifts--those periods when one set
of basic assumptions about the way things work is replaced by another,
such as when geologists replaced the idea of stable continents with
theories of continental drift.
has been in the middle of a paradigm shift, with the Internet and
its sibling Intranets replacing earlier ideas about stand-alone
and networking. Some of the results have included huge amounts of
money invested in stock offerings for any company that can use the
magic "I" word in its prospectus. At the same time, traditional high
tech companies have been scrambling to adapt to the brave new model.
been a lot of
attention paid to software giant Microsoft's attempt to come
from behind and integrate the Internet into its product line.
own set of problems coping with this change in fashion. When IBM
purchased Lotus Development for US$3.5 billion in July 1995,
it was not for its 1-2-3 spreadsheet or WordPro word processor but
for Lotus Notes. Notes was the best known example of
which enabled groups of employees to share data and collaborate on
projects over local or wide-area computer networks. To IBM, Notes
seemed like a key product for the next decade.
we've said before,
the Internet has changed everything. Almost overnight, Notes seemed
like yesterday's product. Powerful, yes. But popular opinion considered
it old-fashioned, awkward to use, and expensive. By contrast, Intranets
are widely presumed to be based on free, easy-to-use software such
as Web browsers.
like a US$3.5-billion investment to motivate a company, however.
with version 4.0, IBM/Lotus has made major changes to Notes. It's
still powerful, and can provide a complete environment for Notes users.
Without leaving Notes, users can view documents, explore data across
the corporate network, send, receive, and file e-mail, participate
in on-line discussions, and run standard and customized applications.
And like an Intranet, Notes can link users running Macs and PCs,
OS/2, and Unix. It also carries an attractive, user-friendly interface,
and IBM has made it much more affordable.
now has Internet capability. It's a capable Web browser in its own
right. Notes users can seamlessly integrate links to the Web alongside
links to their company's Notes data in e-mail or other documents.
And built into the newest version of Notes, 4.5, will be a real Web
server, code-named 'Domino,' making it easy for companies with
data to publish it on the Web. It even supports Netscape plug-ins
and Java applets. But it's not just another Web server: it adds all
of Notes' built-in features--security, a powerful development
and software agents. (Domino is available now, for a free download,
as an add-on to Notes 4.0 or later version. Check http://domino.lotus.com.)
Two of the
agents in Notes 4.5 simplify Web browsing: PageMinder runs in the
background, checking Web pages for changes (if a page on your list
has been updated, it can automatically retrieve a copy, and notify
you by e-mail); WebAhead will download an entire site, allowing you
to peruse it at your leisure, off-line.
Notes as a Web
server brings along existing Notes features such as threaded
and improved security. These can be implemented on standard Intranets,
but only with great difficulty. In fact, it often seems like Intranet
developers are devoting a lot of time and energy to duplicate features
that have been standard in Notes for years.
Notes is a
environment, ready to be customized. Merging it with the Web (whether
over the public Internet or private Intranets), makes it possible
to use the Web for more than just a passive display of information
and get some real work done. If you're thinking of adopting Notes,
IBM Lotus would like to remind you about SmartSuite: while boasting
fewer sales than Microsoft's Office or Corel's Perfect Office
suites, this collection of word processor, spreadsheet, and more offers
the best built-in links to Notes.
purchase has a future, after all.