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Outlook to Lotus: Let's talk

Microsoft unveils software that lets firms running the Lotus Domino e-mail server--designed for the Lotus Notes e-mail program--give workers access to Microsoft's rival e-mail app.

Microsoft announced on Friday free software that lets companies running IBM's Lotus Domino e-mail server--designed for the Lotus Notes e-mail application--give employees access to Microsoft's rival e-mail program.

Microsoft Outlook 2002 Connector is add-in software for the IBM Lotus Domino Release 5 messaging server, that, when installed on a Lotus Domino server by a system administrator, lets a company's employees tap into Outlook 2002 and use most of its calendar, contact management and e-mail functions. Employees can also choose to continue using Notes.

"Many of our customers with Domino servers have told us they would like to give their employees the opportunity to use the latest version of Outlook," said Ralf Harteneck, vice president of Microsoft's communication and meeting services group, in a statement. Outlook normally works with Microsoft's Exchange server.

Lotus has offered its own Outlook connector software for several years, but its efforts to keep the program updated has likely been a burden and generated low revenues for the company, said Robert Mahowald, an IDC analyst.

But for Microsoft, connector software could serve as a selling point to persuade companies that rely on the Lotus server to switch to Exchange and other bundled products.

"Microsoft does not do anything unless they think it can lead to revenue in the long run," Mahowald said.

Microsoft this year pulled ahead of IBM's Lotus in gaining new users, Mahowald said. In 2000, in terms of revenues, Lotus held 50 percent of the messaging and collaboration market--ahead of Microsoft and Novell, according to an IDC report.