Microsoft aims to topple Lotus' Domino

Introduces tools to help IBM Lotus Notes users to switch to its own communications and collaboration software.

Aiming to woo users of Lotus Notes, Microsoft is releasing software designed to help companies switch to its own line of collaboration tools.

The collection of free software provides tools to help move data over to Microsoft's platform from IBM's Lotus software. It also includes utilities to facilitate the period when customers are running server software from both companies.

"The only mystery here is what took them so long," Gartner analyst Matt Cain said. "They've had a bunch of migration tools out there for a long time and they haven't been revised in ages."

The formal announcement of the products is set to come Tuesday, and some of the software will be available immediately. Other items will follow later.

An application analyzer, due out later this quarter, will let companies see which of their programs are actually being used, Microsoft said. A data migration tool, expected next quarter, promises to transfer data from applications that use the popular templates that ship with Lotus Notes.

Microsoft and IBM have been aggressively targeting one another in a variety of areas. Chairman Bill Gates recently characterized IBM as Microsoft's biggest rival in an interview with Reuters. CEO Steve Ballmer also painted a target on the Lotus Notes customer base at last year's partner conference, saying it was "ripe to be plucked."

On the e-mail side, Cain noted that most businesses already have e-mail server software, meaning that IBM and Microsoft are of necessity battling to swipe one another's customers.

"There's not a lot of 'green field' accounts out there," he said. "If you want to grow market share, you have to take it from a competitor."

Microsoft said it is pleased with the recent trends.

"We've seen a real uptick in interest from Notes/Domino customers," said Elisa Graceffo, a senior product manager at Microsoft. "Just in the last couple of months, we've seen hundreds of customers making that move."

Specifically, the software maker named Adaptec, BC Biomedical Laboratories, CompUSA, Endsleigh, SGS, Wolters Kluwer and Wonderware as among those companies that have switched from IBM.

'Ground zero'
Cain said that the Domino-Exchange battle is part of a broader software competition between IBM and Microsoft--a rivalry that pitches .Net against Java and WebSphere.

"This is ground zero for stack versus stack," he said.

IBM updated Notes and Domino in September , adding features aimed at making it easier to develop collaborative programs from within Domino, and making performance improvements.

Right now, Microsoft is testing a new version of Exchange , although Exchange 12 may not ship until next year.

Cain noted that Microsoft is not offering software to help businesses deal with the custom applications that many of them have created using Lotus.

"What's still missing is a tool or service that can migrate the Domino application logic," Cain said. "Domino still is an awesome rapid application development tool. There frankly is nothing (like it) on the market."

Graceffo acknowledged that the data migration tool does not address the full range of applications that Domino users have created. She pitched it as an opportunity for Lotus customers to rethink the business processes that they have built around these custom programs.

Cain suggested Microsoft might come out with some sort of development tool built on Windows Sharepoint Services that would help in migrating those Lotus-based applications.

Graceffo said the new tools are only a part of Microsoft's strategy for winning over Notes/Domino customers, but declined to say whether any specific logic migration tools are forthcoming.

IDC analyst Mark Levitt said Microsoft's move is most likely to appeal to companies already planning on a switch.

"By investing in new and improved migration tools, Microsoft is first and foremost supporting those firms already committed to migrating," Levitt said in an e-mail interview. "Microsoft is also looking to attract the attention of firms who are sitting on the fence due to a concern that the migration itself will cause too much disruption to IT and business user mailboxes and applications."

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About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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