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January 17, 2006

Microsoft courts Lotus Notes users

Microsoft Corp threw down another gauntlet to archrival IBM Corp in the fiercely competitive corporate messaging market by unveiling a set of tools which it hopes will lure more Lotus Notes/Domino users onto its rival collaboration platform.

By CBR Staff Writer

Microsoft 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 Inc, a Notes and Microsoft .NET integrator, to ease migration of Domino to Windows SharePoint Services templates.

Around 30 existing application templates have been available since August last year, Microsoft is adding three additional ones geared up for Windows SharePoint Services. The Data Migrator tool is expected to ship in the second quarter.

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 Inc and Quest Software Inc that it would continue to use their migration tools as well.

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

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 which starts on Sunday in Orlando, Florida.

But easing migration is only a small part of the battle. 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 Corp. (32,000 users) in the US and Arcelor (50,000 European users).

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