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November 29, 1998

IBM PULLS PLUG ON OFFICEVISION TO PROP UP DOMINO

By CBR Staff Writer

Is it the end of the line for OfficeVision? IBMers familiar with the company’s plans say starting in the spring, IBM will no longer make enhancements to OfficeVision/400 and will try to coax AS/400 shops to move to the native implementation of Lotus Domino. Years before Microsoft Corp ever got its Office act together and came to dominate the office productivity market, IBM had developed a suite of green screen software for AS/400s and mainframes, called OfficeVision, that offered them rudimentary word processing, data base merging with text files, e-mail and calendaring (no spreadsheet). IBM had originally intended to unite the different implementations of OfficeVision for AS/400s and mainframes and make the united OfficeVision suite available on PC servers as well, but never got it out the door. By the time IBM was getting ready to take another stab at it, PCs had all but taken over most of the office automation tasks at mainframe and midrange shops (with some notable exceptions like the insurance industry) and Microsoft, Novell Inc and Lotus Development were locked into mortal combat for control of desktop suites. (Microsoft won, Lotus struggles on and Novell sold out the WordPerfect suite to Corel, which hopes to resurrect it on cheap PCs and Linux systems.) And yet despite all the change in the industry, OfficeVision/400, like so many other AS/400 software technologies, persists at AS/400 sites. IBM has enhanced OfficeVision/400 with a graphical interface, made its e-mail work with regular Internet-style POP3 servers and even allowed some interconnection between it and Lotus Domino groupware. But OfficeVision/400, according to rumor, is coming to the end of the line. With the announcement of OS/400 V4R4, no further enhancements are expected, and users will be encourage to migrate over to Lotus Domino. Since it acquired Lotus Development Corp in 1995 for $3.5bn, the jig has been up for OfficeVision. In early 1997, IBM fired the first shot across the bows of mainframe and AS/400 shops when it provided a set of tools to convert OfficeVision nickname, e-mail and calendar files to Lotus Notes format. (We expect that it will soon provide tools to convert formatted text documents to Notes formats as well, and it may even do so for customers who want to move documents off their servers and into Lotus SmartSuite or eSuite.) OfficeVision isn’t being singled out as an orphan in the AS/400 software portfolio. IBM is not supporting NetWare 5.0 or OS/2 Warp on future Integrated PC Server (IPCS) cards or on future releases of OS/400 beyond V4R3, which was announced in September. IBM has also killed off the Warp version of Lotus Domino on the IPCS card, and pre-emptively killed Domino running on NT when it announced its first NT-enabled IPCS card concurrent with V4R3. NetWare 3 and NetWare 4 are still supported on old IPCS cards and old releases of OS/400 (V4R2 and earlier), as is OS/2 Warp. But the forthcoming Aurora release of OS/2 Warp, due sometime in 1999, won’t be supported. While IBM is pulling the plug on OfficeVision in the spring, AS/400 shops will have some time to make their move since IBM apparently intends to support OfficeVision/400 until the end of 2000. Customers who aren’t happy with the IBM tools to move OfficeVision/400 documents to Lotus Notes should check out a small Belgian company called Inventive Designers, which offers a native AS/400 alternative to Notes called EverGreen/400 as well as a migration toolkit that takes RTF or FFT documents created in OfficeVision and converts them to ASCII text or HTML formats. The ASCII and HTML documents created with this tool can be pulled into any number of server groupware or desktop word processing programs.

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