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A cadre of former Lotus software employees is leading a reinvigorated push at Microsoft Corp. to lure Lotus customers to .Net with new products and services.

Over the next six to eight months, the Redmond, Wash., company plans to roll out a series of initiatives, including a tool kit, due this summer, that allows Domino developers to create Notes- and Domino-based Web services using Microsoft development tools such as Visual Studio .Net and Visual Basic.

The effort is the latest by Microsoft to seize what some view as an opportunity left open by the IBM division, based in Cambridge, Mass., as it nudges Lotus developers to Lotus Workplace—an IBM WebSphere-based development platform. Lotus introduced the platform a year ago.

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“Given IBM’s strategy for Workplace, a lot of Lotus customers are going to be taking advantage of the opportunity to re-evaluate their investments,” said Jim Bernardo, lead product manager for Microsoft Exchange.

To bring the effort to life, Microsoft has beefed up its ranks with former Lotus officials. Gary Devendorf, a technology evangelist in Microsoft’s server division and former application development product manager at Lotus, and Charlie Kaufman, security architect for Microsoft’s Common Language Runtime group, joined Microsoft in the past year. Kaufman was chief security architect for Lotus Notes.

According to Bernardo, who was a 10-year Lotus veteran before joining Microsoft four years ago, nearly all members of the former Domino.Workflow team are employed by Microsoft.

The as-yet-unnamed tool kit is being shepherded by Devendorf, who said that once a developer creates the .Net Web services, they will be consumed by Microsoft applications such as the Office suite, SharePoint and Exchange.

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