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Microsoft nabs Lotus partner for email push

Microsoft is luring a longtime strategic partner of rival Lotus Development to deliver "digital dashboard" technology based on its email client software.

Microsoft is luring a longtime strategic partner of rival Lotus Development to deliver "digital dashboard" technology based on its email client software.

Phoenix-based InfoImage announced today plans to supply software and consulting services to companies that want to integrate information from corporate systems, email, and the Web into a single view on corporate desktops.

The agreement benefits Microsoft by pushing a strategy that allows businesses to create customized versions of Microsoft's Outlook 2000 email software. That strategy, announced in May by Microsoft's chief executive Bill Gates, will allow Web information, such as stock quotes and news, and internal corporate resources, such as updated sales data, to be combined in Outlook.

Today's announcement is a blow to Lotus, which used InfoImage technology in part of its own corporate portal-like components in its Domino product.

"We will continue to integrate closely with Domino, but we have reformatted application servers. We are now based on Microsoft's backend not on Domino," said Randy Eckel, CEO of InfoImage.

InfoImage will completely switch to Microsoft server software in the next version of its Freedom 2.0 portal software due out by the end of the year.

"We will work closely with Lotus with Freedom 2.0 and beyond, and we have many customer relationships that we will maintain. It has to do with the market. As the market dictates so will our business. There is no denying the demand by our customers to be on Microsoft's platform."

Microsoft is one of many software makers, including start-ups like Cognos and more established firms such as Lotus, selling products to help businesses build internal and public Internet portal sites.

Internal corporate portals have become a new battleground for IBM subsidiary Lotus and Microsoft, which also compete in the groupware software market.

Microsoft appears to be taking direct aim at Lotus's web of partnerships. Microsoft is contributing about $10 million to subsidize the training and certification of 150 InfoImage engineers and to cover the cost of joint-marketing initiatives, the company said

"Time will tell how our relationship changes with InfoImage," said Tim Dempsey, vice president of worldwide business partnership program at Lotus. "This is a strong statement by Microsoft in an area where it is behind."

A Lotus spokesman said the number of Notes users has more than doubled to 42 million since the beginning of the year, and Domino remains strong in the marketplace as a Notes server. He said most Lotus partners that elect to work with Microsoft continue to develop products for Lotus.