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January 17, 2006

Microsoft courts Lotus Notes users

Microsoft has thrown down another gauntlet to archrival IBM in the fiercely competitive corporate messaging market by unveiling a set of tools that it hopes will lure more Lotus Notes/Domino users onto its rival collaboration platform. However, IBM also has a few tricks up its sleeve, which are expected to be unveiled at the company's upcoming Lotusphere event.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft has announced plans to provide analytic and data transfer tools that would assist users in migrating Lotus email users onto its own collaboration platform, which now extends beyond just Exchange and Outlook to encompass SharePoint Services and Portals Server and Live Communications Server.

The timing of the announcement is not coincidental. It comes several days before IBM’s annual Lotusphere conference kicks off in Florida.

Microsoft’s Application Analyzer 2006 for Lotus Domino tool, which is due out later this quarter, scans Lotus application installations and works out a strategy for switching those applications over onto the Microsoft platform. Microsoft says the tool also helps customers to identify and organize its most-used software.

Meanwhile the Data Migrator 2006 for Lotus Domino tool uses technologies licensed from Proposion, a Notes and Microsoft .NET integrator, to ease migration of Domino to Windows SharePoint Services templates.

Lastly, Microsoft is also updating the existing Exchange Calendar Connector for Lotus Notes/Domino.

At the same time, Microsoft assured long standing partners like Casahl Technology and Quest Software that it would continue to use their migration tools as well.

Microsoft and IBM have been fighting tooth and nail for dominance of the $2.8 billion corporate messaging software market for well over a decade. The battleground comprises collaboration tools like email, calendaring, project management and web publishing.

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Microsoft seems to have the edge at the moment. Industry estimates peg Microsoft with 32% of market share (around 390 million users) while IBM has around 25%. Given that Microsoft owns a lion’s share of corporate desktops, analysts expect the company’s Exchange-led collaboration tools franchise to widen this lead to 37% market share by 2009.

But IBM hasn’t quite given up the ghost, and is looking to a new set of web-based collaboration tools known as IBM Workplace to recapture its momentum and tempt corporate users off Microsoft’s platform. The company is expected to showcase a new Workplace 2.6 client and unveil Project Hannover – the new Domino/Notes 8 platform – at Lotusphere.

Easing migration is only a small part of the battle, however. Microsoft is in effect redefining the competitive battle by extending collaboration beyond its traditional niche, into areas like instant messaging, presence detection systems, active directory management, to name but a few.

Over the past several years both Microsoft and IBM/Lotus have claimed to have stolen from each other’s accounts. Its true that Microsoft has recently been getting more aggressive in its approach, recently claiming big wins like First Data (32,000 users) in the US and Arcelor (50,000 European users).

In March 2005, Microsoft also acquired collaboration software specialist Groove Networks, including, ironically, Ray Ozzie, the inventor of Lotus Notes.

Groove’s software is likely to make its way into Microsoft’s new Office 12 suite, but whether Groove’s platform will now provide the foundation for Microsoft’s collaboration strategy going forwards is still up for debate. Some analysts feel that the Exchange-SharePoint combo is the best bet right now.

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