Lotus Web-Based Workplace Messaging Hits The Streets

Support for Linux, iSeries, personal calendaring, portlets due later in 2003

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IBM Lotus on Tuesday launched a new Web-based messaging platform for deskless workers called Workplace Messaging.

Running on AIX and Windows 2000, Workplace Messaging carries a list price of $29 per user for the software license, which includes messaging, DB2, WebSphere Application Server 5.0 network deployment edition and IBM Directory 4.1. Customers would then pay $5.80 per user per year for maintenance. This is pricier than the sub-$10 per user that IBM stipulated at Lotusphere ealier this year and pricier than the $9.60 per user per year estimate that Lotus recently gave CRN sources. However, Lotus executives said most corporations will get volume discounts and carry an estimated cost per user, per year of roughly $1 per month, or between $11 and $13 per user, per year.

That's an order of magnitude less than the cost for Notes, which runs about $160 per user per year, said John Caffrey, manager of messaging solutions at IBM Lotus. "So it'll be less than a buck per month per user," Caffrey said. "And the cost of ownership [of Workplace Messaging]including hardware, administration, helpdesk, plus software, is less than $3 per user per month."

The price fulfills Lotus' promise to offer e-mail at roughly $10 per user, per month (see story)

Channel partners have been briefed on Workplace Messaging and have been taking orders for several weeks. The software officially shipped Monday, Caffrey said. Workplace Messaging was unveiled along with several other products at an IBM Lotus Symposium in Munich, Germany.

"The enterprise has been extended in the last few years and having the capability to work from wherever you are is critical," said Yali Harari, CEO and President of Kamoon Software, Fort Lee, NJ, which plans to launch Kamoon Connector 4.0. "IBM is leading in the right direction, giving people the ability to work from wherever they are in different ways. You can see it as a low-end offering or for remote users. People are in different places at different times during the day."

At the Tuesday event, Lotus announced general availability of its new DB2 Information Integrator software and two developer tools, including Rational Rapid Developer and IBM Rational XDE Tester. IBM Lotus also expanded its WebSphere Business Integration platform with the introduction of 48 industry-tailored solutions.

Later this year, Lotus plans to add a personal calendaring feature to Workplace Messaging. In the current release, Workplace Messaging will be offered as an integrated server solution, but later this year the product will be offered as a series of Workplace Messaging components, or portlets, that run as services within the WebSphere Portal Server, Caffrey said.

A version of Workplace Messaging for Linux and the IBM iSeries is slated to be offered later this year, he said, adding that a version for Microsoft's recently unveiled Windows Server 2003 will be considered based on customer interest. Eventually, Lotus expects to add SOAP wrappers to enable the platform for Web services.

Solution providers say they aim to target Workplace Messaging at deskless workers who haven't been integrated into the enterprise technology chain. That includes factory floor workers, retail clerks, airline employees and workers with basic e-mail needs.

"It's a good idea. It's fast, lightweight and inexpensive," said Lou Breithaupt, vice president of business development at metaLogic Consulting, an IBM Lotus Business Partner. "There's a lot of interest because of the business case. It allows companies to penetrate deeper into the knowledge base of their organization and empower those employees that haven't had e-mail to communicate easily and readily. It's the next wave of collaboration."

Lotus plans to continue developing Notes as a separate product line for Workplace Messaging and give customers the option to use DB2 or the existing Notes NFS back end to store data. Either way, the two offerings address different enterprise segments and won't cause confusion, solution providers say.

Workplace Messaging addresses the rising corporate interest in inexpensive, Web-based messaging solutions, said Robert Matson, CEO of BlueStorm, an IBM Lotus partner based in Binghamton, N.Y.

"As more companies go Web-based, they don't want a laptop with e-mail that has to be replicated. It's a real good fit," Matson said. "It'll open up new avenues for us. Most of our work is Web-based, and we do customer work with WebSphere and Domino. So it's a companion to that."

BlueStorm is working with a couple of clients that want Workplace Messaging for their factory operation, and another big Notes customer--a bank--wants to deploy Workplace Messaging on teller desktops to reduce costs, Matson said. He noted that the integration of messaging with DB2 and WebSphere offers improved benefits of scalability, performance and integration.

"This is great for us. We can do Domino and move to WebSphere without having to sell it as a separate product and technology," Matson said. "I see it as an integrated solution."

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