LAS VEGAS, Nevada--Microsoft tried hard to steal the show today at the Networld + Interop trade conference here with the release of its long-awaited Exchange messaging server. But its competitors were already waiting in the wings with migration programs intended to take away Microsoft customers.
Exchange is an enterprise messsaging server intended to replace the older Microsoft Mail system by offering groupware capabilities, such as discussions, workflow management, and a higher level of reliability and scalability.
Because MS Mail users now must go through the pain of upgrading anyway, Novell and Lotus Development announced migration programs today aimed at intercepting corporate users of Microsoft Mail before they switch to Exchange. Both companies also announced new features or add-on software to make Novell GroupWise and Lotus Notes more attractive.
Novell announced that it will give away up to 50 client licenses for GroupWise 4.1, a Message Server NetWare Loadable Module, and a Microsoft Mail Migration Utility to Microsoft Mail users who switch to GroupWise.
Lotus, which handed out disks with Notes software outside Microsoft chairman Bill Gates's keynote this morning, will provide Microsoft Mail users with migration tools that translate MS Mail directories, personal address books, and distribution lists to formats that will work with its Notes Release 4.
Some analysts think the scheme may work. Microsoft has already managed to woo 60,000 corporate users into adopting Exchange, but that number pales in comparison to the 15 million using Lotus Notes and 5.5 million using GroupWise.
"Migrating to Exchange from Microsoft Mail is non-trivial," said David Strom, president of the David Strom Incorporated consultancy. "I think Lotus and Novell have a shot."
In addition to their migration programs, Lotus and Novell announced new software designed to make their products more functional and easier to use. Novell announced GroupWise WorkFlow, a program that updates members of a workflow project via email to new tasks and assignments, while Lotus unveiled Lotus NotesView 4.0, a graphical management tool to simplify monitoring and administration of Notes networks.
Still, some users say that as the new kid on the block, Exchange brings new features that will attract both existing Microsoft users and new customers.
"Exchange offers us replication for folders...which is absolutely critical for mobile users," said Erik Iversen, director of application development systems at Nabisco. "Our sales are almost entirely mobile. By the end of today, Nabisco will have over 2,700 users on Exchange."
And even though Microsoft has taken nearly two years to deliver Exchange, the company can easily associate its release with its quickly evolving Internet strategy, whereas both Notes and Groupwise were introduced before the intranet phenomenon really caught on.
"None of the messaging solutions of the past met the bill," Gates said. "We're not an island here. The last two years we've spent embracing the Internet and testing [Exchange Server]. Any system running any browser can connect into [Exchange Server] and access public folders."