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Lotus unfolds for smaller customers

IBM announces packages of its Lotus e-mail and collaboration software tailored for small and medium-size businesses, as the company expands its attack on Microsoft's Exchange.

IBM on Wednesday announced new packages of its Lotus Domino server software, targeting smaller businesses and broadening its attempt to convert customers from Microsoft's Exchange.

The new packages--Lotus Domino Collaboration Express and Lotus Domino Utility Server Express--offer IBM's e-mail and collaboration software with license terms and technical tweaks suited for smaller businesses rather than the large enterprise accounts Lotus has focused on.

Ken Bisconti, vice president of messaging and advanced collaboration solutions for IBM's Lotus division, said the packages are intended for businesses with 100 to 1,000 employees that haven't adopted other Lotus products. The e-mail and collaboration products are designed to give those customers an easy, low-cost way to sample the collaboration tools--which allow workers to work remotely on documents, conduct online meetings and perform other tasks--built into Domino.

"Price is a part of the argument, but I think it's more important for people on another platform to look at the value of the collaboration solutions we can provide," Bisconti said. "Rather than just providing a simple e-mail solution and half-broken public folders, we're offering a powerful suite of collaboration features."

The small-business segment has yet to adopt collaboration software in any widespread way, even though many could benefit from such tools, Bisconti said.

"I think there's a lot of unmet demand and unrecognized opportunity here," he said. "You don't have to be a 3,000-worker organization to find value in our software. In some cases, it's a 10-person organization that's spread all over the country that can really benefit from collaboration."

IBM also hopes to woo customers with broad software compatibility. Both packages work on a variety of operating systems, including Intel-based Linux, Microsoft's Windows, IBM's AIX take on Unix, and Sun Microsystems' Solaris version of Unix. The packages also work with a variety of e-mail client software, including Microsoft's Outlook.

IBM is in the midst of a broad effort to revamp its Lotus division, focusing on integrating existing products and developing new software packages to expand Lotus' range. The company earlier this year introduced a streamlined set of office applications intended to compete with Microsoft Office and unveiled new Lotus products built around its WebSphere Web services software.

Lotus Domino Collaboration Express sells for $89.25 per user when trading up from competitive e-mail products, or $119 for new purchases. Lotus Domino Utility Server sells for $5,000 for each server processor it runs on. Both products are available now.