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Microsoft woos Lotus users

Seeking to lure cc:Mail and Notes messaging server customers, Redmond rolls out a number of migration and coexistence tools.

BOSTON--Continuing its push to lure Lotus Development cc:Mail and Notes messaging server customers over to its Exchange server, Microsoft today rolled out a number of migration and coexistence tools.

Kicking off its Exchange Conference here today, Microsoft made it clear that it is continuing its plans to pull as many existing customers away from Lotus, its main competitor in the messaging software market, by providing tools to make it easier to migrate from cc:Mail and Notes to its messaging server Exchange.

The software giant also debuted new collaboration features in the upcoming Outlook 2000 and some highlights of the next Exchange server code-named Platinum.

Application Analyzer for Lotus Notes explores an organization's Notes infrastructure, categorizing the types of applications and indicating the ones that are no longer in use.

"We'll help you get a hold of what you have in Notes, then make the migration," said Brian Valentine, general manager for Microsoft's server applications division, during his address today.

The Application Connector for Lotus Notes lets Notes and Exchange applications work together and is accessible by users on either system, the company said.

The Application Conversion Assistant for Lotus Notes converts all or parts of Notes applications, including electronic forms, files, and databases over to Exchange.

Another tool is the Microsoft Importer for Lotus Notes Mail, which moves existing Lotus Notes mailboxes to Exchange.

Both the conversion assistant and the importer tools allow users to maintain a Notes-like interface while converting and importing the Notes data over to the Exchange server, allowing users the option of not retraining on the Outlook interface if they don't want to, according to Microsoft.

On the cc:Mail side, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Importer for cc:Mail Archives which moves existing cc:Mail archives to Microsoft Exchange, allowing users to preserve business-critical information stored within their personal email folders.

All of the tools are now available for free download from the Microsoft Exchange Download and Trial Center.

The software giant also showed that it has learned a few things from Lotus when it demonstrated an upcoming feature for Outlook 2000. The enhancement allows users to build Web-based collaborative applications similar to the user-initiated groupware applications pioneered by Lotus--most notably Instant TeamRoom, a rentable Web-based groupware application.

At today's conference, Microsoft showed the Outlook 2000 Application Design Wizard, a COM add-in for Outlook that provides a simple user interface and set of templates that make it easy for application designers, users, and developers alike to create collaborative applications. The product requires little, if any, programming knowledge from the user to create discussion groups, issue tracking, calendar sharing, and contact and task tracking.

The new wizard will ship soon after Office 2000 ships early next year, the company said.

In addition, Microsoft took the time to shed some light on the next release of its messaging server after Exchange 5.5, which is now shipping. Code-named Platinum, the future messaging server will include tighter integration with remote access devices like two-way pagers, Windows CE, cell phones, and unified messaging applications. It will also feature phone integration software that will allow users to check schedules, email messages, and other simple applications over the phone.

Platinum will also include tighter integration with Windows NT 5.0, like synchronization between the NT's Active Directory and Exchanges internal directory services.

Pricing and dates of availability of Platinum were not disclosed.