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Lotus, numbers tell different stories

Lotus claimed a larger market share for SmartSuite, but the numbers weren't definitive.

Lotus Development announced today that market share for its SmartSuite productivity application suite had almost tripled in the first quarter and captured 20 percent of the worldwide market, but the study that Lotus cited as proof painted a slightly different picture.

Lotus has battled Microsoft and its Office suite for desktop applications for a long time. But with Microsoft dominating nearly 90 percent of the market, everyone but Lotus has long considered the war over. Still, after Lotus was acquired by IBM last year, the company pledged to keep fighting and began bundling its software with IBM computers.

Lotus today cited a new study from market research firm Dataquest to prove that it has made inroads into Microsoft's territory. Lotus focused its announcement on the number of total units shipped in the first quarter of 1996, a figure that gave Lotus 20 percent of the total market.

However, the figure included "a significant OEM component," meaning that it counted machines shipped from the factory to the distributor but not necessarily purchased by anyone. While this meant that shipments of SmartSuite increased, the study also showed that revenue share by vendor, or sales, was actually down from 8.1 percent to 6.7 percent compared to the previous quarter. Microsoft still commands 89 percent of the market's revenue.

The study also reported that Corel, which recently purchased the third-ranked WordPerfect Suite from Novell, posted a 2 percent gain in revenue share in the first quarter.

Nonetheless, Lotus hopes that the increase in its shipments will mean an increase in customer interest in its software. The company also announced today that it is continuing to expand its OEM agreements and will ship SmartSuite on Fujitsu's three new lines of laptop PCs, as well as the Proteva line of PCs sold on the Home Shopping Network. In addition, Lotus will launch a new support program for users who switch from Corel PerfectOffice or Microsoft Office.

Dataquest agreed that the numbers are good news for Lotus. "Even if the usage [of SmartSuite] is maybe not as large as the figures would indicate...Lotus now has an incremental opportunity [to increase market revenue share]," the report stated.

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