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What’s a year between friends, or competitors for that matter? The glitter from Microsoft Corp’s 95 launch, Windows and Office, has hardly settled, when IBM Corp’s Lotus Development Corp goes and announces Smartsuite 96, for Windows95 of course. The title might subliminally suggest a later, more up-to-date product than Office 95, but in spite of Lotus’s protestations, both of the integrated 32-bit Object Linking & Embedding-capable products sound awfully similar. Smartsuite for Windows95 has 32-bit versions of Freelance graphics, the WordPro word processor and Approach database, but only 16-bit versions of the 1-2-3 spreadsheet, Organiser 2.1 and ScreenCam multimedia tool. LotusScript programming language is now in all applications, there is full Object Linking & Embedding support, and the Global Network Navigator, America Online Inc’s Internet access service has been incorporated in the product. Similar claims have also been made by Microsoft, but where Lotus says it has the upper hand is in its team computing software, such as TeamReview, which enables multiple users to mark up and edit documents, and stores multiple copies of a document in one file, and TeamShow, which enables collaboration on presentations. The company said it is confident that, given the time it takes to build such systems, none of its competitors would have similar funtions in the near future. Smartsuite 96 is due to ship in November, in multiple European languages simultaneously, including French, Spanish and German, with Scandinavian versions, Portuguese and a host of others 60 days later. Japanese and South East Asian versions will follow the general availability of Windows95 in these areas, the company said. Unfortunately, with such a global roll-out, Lotus was apparently unable to give a price for the new product. Vice-president, desktop marketing, Allen Carney, said the price would vary regionally and recommended contacting local suppliers for the information. UK pricing is ú370 for the full product, ú180 for an upgrade. Anyone buying Windows 3.1 applications until December 31 gets the upgrade free, apart from the cost of the medium at about ú20, and has until June 1996 to decide to take up the offer. Smartsuite for OS/2 will be available in the first quarter of 1996. The company said ownership by IBM had not played any significant part in the the product to date, since it had been in development long before the acquisition occurred.

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