Lotus Development Corporation is joining Oracle, IBM, and Sun Microsystems in a bid to develop a consistent network computing architecture that will include Lotus' vision of a "Webtop" graphical interface. The four companies will develop APIs, specifications, and a set of standards for the hardware and software needed to get the NC off the ground.

Lotus, in particular, is betting heavily on the initiative. The company recently announced a Java-based suite of applications called eSuite that will be made available in the Spring.

The only major player missing from the Webtop project is, of course, Microsoft, which would like to see its Windows CE operating system form the basis of networked computers Microsoft called Windows terminals. The Webtop NC systems will compete directly with Microsoft's plans.