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Oracle: E-mail server making connections

The database software maker asserts that it is winning deals for its Collaboration Suite e-mail server software, a rival to products from Microsoft and IBM.

Oracle's recent foray into the e-mail server market, where it faces steep competition from Microsoft and IBM, is starting to pay off, the company says.

The database software maker had signed 500 deals for its Collaboration Suite since launching the initial version of the product last fall, Oracle executives said Wednesday during a financial analyst meeting at its Redwood Shores, Calif., headquarters. Initial customers include the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and NH Hoteles, a hotel chain based in Spain.

Oracle executives assert that NH Hoteles dumped Microsoft's rival Exchange e-mail server in favor of Collaboration Suite. Microsoft executives were not immediately available to comment.

"We think we can take a ton of market share against Microsoft with the Collaboration Suite," Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said at the meeting.

The suite is a set of applications for managing data generated by e-mail, electronic calendars, desktop applications and voice mail. In the e-mail and messaging market, Oracle is a bit player. Microsoft ranks first in number of customers, followed by IBM, Novell and a number of smaller companies that are hoping to fill specific niches.

Microsoft is set to release a new version of Exchange later this summer, the first major update to the product since releasing Exchange 2000 nearly three years ago.

Oracle said its goal is to unseat Microsoft and IBM with a competing system that is easier and cheaper to maintain. At the same time, Oracle acknowledges that most companies have already installed e-mail servers and that growth in that market has slowed. With a price tag of around $60 per customer, Collaboration Suite is half to one-third the cost of its rivals' packages, the company said.

Oracle said it began shipping the second release of the product last month, . New in the second version of the Collaboration Suite are Web-conferencing capabilities, including group Web browsing, online chat, desktop sharing, voice streaming, online whiteboard and playback.

Also new are support for wireless devices, a new document-processing system and delegated e-mail administration. The new version is available in 18 languages, up from nine in the previous release, the company said.

The Web-conferencing component can help businesses reduce travel costs, increase employee productivity and stay compliant with government regulations that require an audit trail of electronic communications, said Chuck Rozwat, executive vice president of database technologies at Oracle.