IBM Targets Microsoft With New Express Offering

Monday Jul 12th 2004 by Dan Muse
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Hoping to make a dent in the armor of Outlook and Exchange, IBM today announced Lotus Domino Messaging Express, which Big Blue describes as its 'Microsoft killer.'

Looking to take a bite out of Microsoft messaging market share, IBM today announced Lotus Domino Messaging Express. The latest addition to its ever-growing Express portfolio of small and mid-sized business products is designed to be a lower-cost alternative to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange. "This is our Microsoft killer," said Art Fontaine, senior marketing manager, IBM Software.

IBM Lotus Domino Messaging Express is available for Windows, Linux and OS/400 operating systems and offers e-mail, group scheduling, discussion forum and document library capabilities. Prices start at $48 per user if you are upgrading from a competitive product (which includes free Linux-based e-mail software such as Sendmail, Fontaine said). For new purchases, the price is $96 per user.

Fontaine said that SMBs are very clear about what they want when it comes to messaging. "Their feedback indicated specific needs. They are looking for e-mail and calendaring." Fontaine added that, like any vendor, Lotus had to put Domino through the Express certification process. He said that while the features were found to be appropriate for Express SMB users, Lotus/IBM had to make some improvements in terms of ease of use and and installation. And as with all products in the Express line, IBM partners will sell and service and the software in many cases to companies that lack their own IT department.

Understanding the nuances of IBM's far-reaching Express offerings can be a challenge, but in this case the objectives are clear. Lotus Domino Messaging Express is designed to "do what Microsoft Exchange and Outlook do." That is, Domino is a server that enables sharing and collaboration and Notes is the desktop client.

Virus and spam protection naturally are big concerns for small business and Fontaine claims that Lotus Domino Messaging Express has an advantage over Microsoft. The product offers built-in features to block spam and prevent viruses, but, more importantly, he said Domino/Notes architecture offers an advantage because the application keeps the e-mail functions and the address book separate. "We have never been impacted by a virus."

While its sights are clearly set on Outlook and Exchange, Fontaine said IBM recognizes how important interoperability is. For example, you may want to replace the back-end software (i.e., Exchange) but continue using the same client software. Even if the company agrees to switch to Domino, "sometimes you just can't make the CEO give up Outlook."

Domino/Notes underlying technology addresses this Fontaine said. In cases where Domino will be the server software and Outlook will the client, the software can be configured so that Domino thinks it's talking to Notes and Outlook thinks it's talking to Exchange.

IBM Lotus Domino Messaging Express joins Domino Collaboration Express, which is designed to offer e-mail and calendar plus custom workflow and document applications, Domino Utility Server Express, an applications server built to support only an unlimited number of users both inside and outside the business.

Whether IBM Lotus can make much of a dent in Microsoft's messaging stronghold, especially with smaller businesses, is debatable, according to research from The Radicati Group, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm. According to the company, Microsoft currently has a 31 percent market share compared to IBM Lotus' 24 percent. However, the firm predicts IBM's market share will drop to 17 percent by 2008.

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com's Small Business Channel and EarthWeb's Networking & Communications Channel.

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