Mobile middleware vendor Extended Systems Inc appears to have been dumped by IBM Corp in the latest release of its Lotus Domino groupware and application platform. The move will also be bad news for other vendors that specialize in linking Domino to mobile devices,Tony Cripps writes
Boise, Idaho-based Extended has previously been favored by IBM as a provider of mobile device to desktop synchronization software for the Armonk, New York-based giant's two application platforms, WebSphere and Lotus Domino. The two companies were also apparently committed to developing a more sophisticated device to server synchronization package.
However, it appears that IBM has now reneged on this agreement in favor of its own synchronization software based on the evolving SyncML standard.
Jim Moffat, Lotus market manager, IBM EMEA north region, told ComputerWire: "Extended Systems provides the technology behind [the long standing] Lotus EasySync Pro. This provides the ability to synchronize your PDA with your desktop. This we continue to market since there is still a proportion of people who spend most of their day at their desk, then sync their PDA before they go home or to a meeting.
"Around this time last year, [Lotus] spoke about a version of that product to provide server-based synchronization of mail and calendar information. This is intended for the person who, instead of taking their laptop on a business trip, takes their PDA or communicator and wishes to sync with the server.
"We changed our course to embrace the SyncML open standard and instead are bringing out the new version which utilizes SyncML to do server synchronization, exchanging PIM information in a uniform way to the Domino server from a wider variety of devices."
David Hofacker, UK managing director of Extended Systems told ComputerWire he was unaware of IBM's decision but that he was not shocked by it. "We originally [worked with IBM] for device to PC synchronization and had planned to do the server piece as well," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if IBM has gone its own way [with device to server synchronization] - we compete with them all over the place - but I am surprised I don't know."
But the news is not just unfortunate for Extended. It will also not be welcomed by other mobile connectivity pioneers such as Synchrologic, Pumatech and Sybase, through its iAnywhere Solutions subsidiary. Many of these companies have made their names and a large part of their revenue from mobilizing Lotus Notes and Domino and Microsoft's rival Exchange Server.
The Domino-related piece of that revenue stream could now dry up as IBM starts bundling its SyncML-based mobile connectivity piece, Domino Everyplace, with Domino 6. Lotus's Moffat said Domino users will receive the upgrade as part of IBM's Passport program, once it is released, probably late in the third quarter. For many, the need to look to third-party mobile middleware vendors will then evaporate.
Moffat believes vendors affected by IBM's decision to bring Domino's synchronization technology back in house will "do a thirty-degree turn" and add new products around their core technologies as a way to remain competitive. Indeed, Extended itself bought mobile applications and services company ViaFone at the end of May, a move that suggests it is already seeking nearby pastures.
ComputerWire also contacted iAnywhere Solutions, but the company said "it does not wish to comment on this announcement now."