New York, Sept. 30: Lotus Software, which gained renown as the creator of some of the world’s most widely-used business software before being acquired by IBM in 1995, plans to announce upgrades to its office automation and work flow products to tie its software more closely to that of its corporate parent.
Lotus develops products that help people work in teams, including e-mail and instant messaging, software for setting up online meetings and sharing documents, and online education packages. The upgrades, which will be announced on Monday, make it possible to link Lotus software more tightly with IBM’s software platform for e-commerce, known as Websphere, its Tivoli computing systems management software and its DB2 database.
Al Zollar, Lotus’ general manager, said the unit, which is still based at Lotus’ former headquarters in Cambridge, Mass., has evolved into IBM’s “power brand” for software that supports information sharing. He said that a goal of the changes was to help users of other IBM software get more out of Lotus products. For example, networkserver computers running Websphere will be able to be host to hundreds of thousands of simultaneous Lotus-based online meetings thanks to the new upgrades, Zollar said.
Lotus is the only IBM software unit that still sells a wide variety of applications for computer users as well as applications that on top of which other vendors build add functionality. But Lotus is also moving to make it easier to embed components of its applications in the products of other vendors.
One example is customer management software, which allows service representatives at call centres to retrieve instantly records of previous dealings with a customer when a call arrives. Using Lotus’ Sametime software, a representative can exchange instant messages with managers or colleagues who may be familiar with the customer. It will now be possible to embed Sametime directly within the customer-management program so the representative does not have to load it separately to check who is online and send instant messages.
The new products are the first across-the-board revamping of Lotus' product line since Zollar took over at Lotus early in 2000. The software unit, known as the Lotus Development Corp. when it was an independent company, became an industry powerhouse on the strength of Lotus 1-2-3, its spreadsheet, and Lotus Notes, the first major program aimed at helping desktop computer users in companies to share information.
IBM stunned the computer industry when it made its $ 3.3 billion hostile bid for Lotus to gain control of Notes and the new field of software that became known a groupware. IBM promised Jim Manzi, Lotus’ chief at the time of the takeover, to take a “hands-off” approach.
Although Manzi left the next year and Ray Ozzie, the main architect of Notes, departed in 1998, Lotus remained largely autonomous until Zollar's appointment as its president and chief executive.
Last year, Lotus shed its original name in favor of IBM Lotus Software, Zollar's title was modified to general manager, and Lotus’ sales operations were brought into the reporting framework for the rest of IBM software. IBM does not disclose Lotus' revenue or profits.