IBM Corp’s Lotus Development Corp pulled together a bunch of its friends and rented new York’s Hudson Theater in the Millenium Hotel for the first – and probably the last – big rollout of a set of Java so-called productivity applications. Lotus, along with Sun Microsystems Inc, Novell Inc, Netscape Communications Corp, Oracle Corp, and, of course, IBM have decided to pool their Java application development resources to try and succeed where Corel Corp so patently failed; namely to develop a set of applications to perform similar functions to the Office-type suites prevalent on so many personal computers. The advantage of writing them in Java is that they will run on almost every machine, but principally that they can be hosted on servers, enabling people to run them on thin network computers. Lotus’suite is now called eSuite, having been known as Kona since January, when it was revealed to the audience at Lotusphere. It was due to have shipped by last quarter, but now will arrive in stages beginning with some full versions in January with all of it coming down by the end of next quarter. The suite comprises two main elements. Workplace is a Java desktop environment and eight other applications built from JavaBeans in the form of an applet library: email, browser, calendaring/scheduling, spreadsheet, charting, word processor, project scheduler and lastly, Java DataBase Connectivity (JDBC) for connecting to legacy systems. The second element, DevPack, is a set of server- side JavaBeans – essentially the same application with their methods exposed – to enable developers to build application based on eSuite. Sun contributed the HotJava browser, and its combination of that with Netscape’s Navigator, dubbed Javagator, will be combined with eSuite in the second half of next year. Sun will also ship eSuite with its JavaStations. Oracle will ship it with its NC software and include the eSuite applet library into its Inter Office enterprise management tool. The inclusion of eSuite with Oracle’s NC software spells the end for its alternative set of applets, codenamed Hat Trick. Novell Inc will include eSuite with IntranetWare services. Netscape will make it available via its Netcenter web-based online service and Smart Update facility to upgrade the software. IBM will include it with its forthcoming second generation of Network Station NCs. IBM, Netscape, Novell, Sun and Oracle have signed memorandums of understanding for this development, and will bring it all together in the second half of 1998 with version 2 of eSuite – codenamed Web98 that will finally bring a the oft-mentioned ‘webtop’ to fruition, combining all their efforts into one product. Two newcomers to the party are America Online Inc and Intel Corp. AOL will make the eSuite calendar and mail applets available to its members, and eventually plans to make the rest available. In return Lotus will sell AOL’s Instant Messenger product to its Notes, Domino and SmartSuite customers. Intel and Lotus are working to ensure that eSuite runs optimally on Intel- based PC platforms – so much for ‘write once, run anywhere’ – and the two are promising some sort of joint marketing initiative by the year end. Lotus president Jeff Papows said Corel made fundamentally huge mistakes with its Office for Java product, which never made it to market, as it simply replicated the huge footprint of PC applications in Java, requiring about 40Mb of disk space, without the client-server architecture, he said. Lotus has got its applets down to between 500k and 700k each, according to the company. The target footprint for either an NC or PC, is a 133MHz processor and 32Mb RAM. Lotus has no plans at the moment to deploy eSuite internally, thought that might change, but IBM will be running it on the 10,000 NCs it is deploying in its finance and human resources departments. Workplace – the Java desktop and collection of applets – costs $50 and goes into ‘broad beta’ on December 1 on both PCs and NCs, with the NC version being released at Lotusphere in the third week of January and the PC version around the end of the first quarter. The DevPack server applets, management, deployment and administration software will cost $1,500 per server and will beta at Lotusphere time, with rollout at the end of the quarter. Notes 4.6.1, due at the year end will enable JavaBeans to be embedded in the server, and thus interoperable with eSuite. There must have been few smirks in Redmond yesterday at the extent of the effort required to come up with a few fairly basic applications written in Java, and deliver them much later than planned.