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Lotus has abandoned development of eSuite, its Java-based rival to Microsoft Office. The reason: too few people bought the product. eSuite was launched a couple of years ago on the back of the Network Computer movement and the concept of the 'Webtop'. Since then, the NC has conspicuously failed to take off, leaving eSuite struggling to make any headway against Wintel application suites like Office and even Lotus' own SmartSuite. That said, the timing of the move is surprising. Sun's recent acquisition of StarOffice, a Unix-based personal productivity application suite, has focused attention on this area of the software market. For instance, Applix, developer of another application suite for Unix and Linux, has seen its share price rise over the last few weeks since the StarOffice purchase. After months of hovering closely to the $9 mark, the company's stock shot up over $23 at the end of August before settling down to around $17. While this increased interest from investors and users may not drive buyers to the likes of Applix and Lotus straightaway, it nevertheless signals an opportunity. True, users may not be looking for NC-based solutions, but they are expressing an interest in desktop applications for non-Microsoft, PC-based operating systems. Or, rather, operating system, singular: Linux, in other words. Lotus, though, has missed its chance. In addition to ending the ongoing development of eSuite, it has decided to stop marketing the product, too. eSuite team members will be given other roles within Lotus -- the company said it wasn't anticipating any layoffs. Still, with the company now sure it's not going to make any more money out of eSuite, the possibility remains that it could just give the software away as a download, either as is or under an open source licence. Lotus said it will continue to support the product through 2001, but open sourcing the software would allow existing users to continue to receive updates, and provide Lotus with an easy way to see how this open source gig actually works. ® Related Stories Sun shines spotlight on Ray thin client

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