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Xerox, IBM in knowledge pact - Document Centre devices get Lotus Domino integration

More than once calling it a "marriage between the paper and digital worlds," Xerox, accompanied by IBM and Lotus, jointly announced a sweeping alliance among their organizations and introduced a large number of new office automation tools (printers, copiers and multifunction devices) aimed at, in the words of Xerox President and CEO Richard Thoman, "changing the way people work and how they share knowledge."

At the center of the initiative is the agreement to integrate Lotus (www.lotus.com) Notes and the Domino electronic document management products with the Xerox (www.xerox.com) Document Centre family of digital multifunction office systems to "help customers easily bridge paper and electronic documents across an enterprise."

In practice, the vision is that office knowledge workers will be able to scan a document (using a Xerox Document Centre product) and, in its electronic version, it could be attached to a Notes E-mail message to be distributed and routed-shared-throughout an enterprise and beyond. The status of the document would be tracked, recorded and managed with Domino.

Commenting on the alliance, Lotus CEO Jeff Papows noted that an absence of standards has prevented office printers, scanners and copiers from becoming effective knowledge sharing tools, despite the enormous volume of intellectual assets still contained in paper form. By integrating Lotus Notes (as the delivery medium) and Domino (as the document management control) with Xerox's Document Centre hardware, Papows said, "We are integrating paper-based information into the way humans interact electronically," and will ultimately allow customers to "include paper documents as core data type."

Toward that end, Papows added that Xerox and Lotus will make their products compatible with the upcoming "Salutation standard," a standard proposed by a non-profit group of technology company representatives called the Salutation Consortium (www.salutation.org), which would allow fax machines, copiers, printers, laptops and other devices-regardless of their manufacturers-to work with each other across a network.

Speaking from Xerox's new Park Avenue facility called the "Xerox Knowledge Sharing Centre," Xerox also announced a series of new products, including:

  • a line of seven digital copier and copier/printer models, starting at less than $500, which will be sold through retail stores;
  • two 65-page-per-minute Document Centre models for the mainstream office;
  • the DocuTech 65 Publisher, at 65 pages-per-minute, the smallest and lowest-cost model in the successful Xerox DocuTech series;
  • the DocuPrint 65, a small printer for transactional documents, such as invoices and statements, from all popular computing platforms at the user's location.

According to Thoman, "Document Centre is a workflow engine with the horsepower to turbocharge the digital office. In simple terms, Document Centre becomes the Ôon and off ramps' to the digital document freeway supported by the Lotus Notes and Domino software environment."

Bill Zoellick, industry analyst with Fastwater (www.fastwater.com), found the announcements significant, coming as they do from big infrastructure players, but cautioned, "You have to do this kind of foundation work if you want to use information digitally. So it is important, as foundations are important. But it's not the house."

Under the agreement, Xerox and IBM (ww.ibm.com) will begin joint marketing efforts this fall to showcase the solution in selected customer sites, with broad customer engagement planned to begin in 1999.

Quoted in Wall Street Journal Interactive (www.wsj.com), Barry Tepper, industry analyst with Cap Ventures (www.capv.com), said: "Long term, that (marketing agreement) is the major news. Short term, IBM and Xerox are kind of testing the water, taking baby steps toward some kind of a marketing relationship.

Their caution is perhaps understandable considering that IBM and Xerox compete quite actively in the high-end digital printing sector. This unusual alliance signifies Xerox's desire to take part in the worldwide knowledge management market.

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