Lake Buena Vista, Fla.-- Lotus Development said on Monday thatNotes/Domino Release 5.0 will not ship until February.
"The expected thing this morning, probably the popular thing, is for me to tell you we've gone into manufacturing and we start shipping this week," Lotus CEO and president Jeff Papows told several thousand attendees during his keynote at Lotusphere 99.
But he explained that final quality testing on the product would take a few more weeks. "You will have the product--I promiseyou--in February," Papows told the audience to loud applause.
Also during his speech, Papows announced that Lotus would makeavailable this year a version of the Domino server for the Linux operating system, although he stressed Lotus would charge for this product and would not ship it with open source code.
Papows also announced a deal with America Online to provide a co-branded suite of Web sites for R5 users. The joint venture with AOL will provide customized news and real-time chat services from within the Notes R5 desktop.
The IBM subsidiary originally promised to ship R5 at the end of last year. The last major release of the messaging and collaboration platform occurred in January 1996, with the release of Notes/Domino 4.0. Lotus then beefed up the Internetcapabilities of the product with 4.5 and the current release, 4.6.
Indeed, Papows revealed for the first time today that Lotus had shipped 5 million new Notes seats in the fourth quarter, for a total of 14 million seats in 1998, or two million more than it had predicted last January that it would ship for the year. Lotus now claims some 34 million Notes users worldwide.
Lotus and Microsoft fought a tight, quarter by quarter, battle for volume supremacy last year.
Meanwhile, Lotus feels R5 is the most significant introduction since Notes first arrived in 1990.
From a messaging perspective, the new release supports SMTP and MIME natively,rather than translating to Internet mail in theDomino server or through gateways. "This is the first of the traditional products to support SMTP messaging natively," saidJoyce Graff, an analyst at the Gartner Group.
That will be welcome by many existing as well as new customers. "It's a big nuisance reduction; you don't have to have anygateways, or do gymnastics changing the attachment format and the addressing format," Graff added. "It will offer a big performance enhancement and a reduction in aggravation."
As often is the case, Gartner Group is advising its clients not to upgrade until at least the first service pack is released."Whenever you have a big revision like this you have to be concerned about putting it up too rapidly," she said.
Most analysts said the delay in R5 was trivial.
"The actual ship date is less important than what's in the new product. There's always a slow migration," said David Marshak, asenior consultant with Patricia Seybold Group. He added that developers were enthused about the new features in R5.
The most likely companies to jump on the Notes/Domino bandwagon are those that do not have the current 4.6 release, said Marshak, But those that have moved to the 4.6 release in the past year probably will not be in a burning rush to upgrade again this year.
"Upgrades are slow. A lot of customers have had rough experiences with big upgrades," Marshak said.
The main reason existing Noes shops will be looking to upgrade is cost of ownership and scalability, he added. "If they aregetting into server consolidation, that's a big planning issue," he said.
However, shops with earlier versions, or legacy E-mail systems, are the most likely to leap to R5. "Companies that need a stronger Web presence will move quite quickly," Marshak said.
Steven Weissman, president of consulting firm Kinetic Information, agreed that the month delay probably would not hurt Lotus.
Meanwhile, Papows in his keynote hammered on the distinction between simple messaging and knowledge management--the later being a category Lotus clearly feels it invented and stillowns.
"[Knowledge management] is very real and the market is clearly building," he said. "Our investment and our leadership inknowledge management continue to grow, as do your use and implementation." And in a backhanded slap at competitors likeMicrosoft, Papows added: "But as others try to change their tune, remember which company it was that in fact led the way."