Big boys fight hard for e-mail territory

When it comes to the killer app that has defined corporate technology purchasing in the past decade there is no greater battle royale than the rivalry between IBM and Microsoft on the e-mail front.

Today the fierce competition surrounding the Notes versus Outlook debate has shifted to entire collaboration and messaging suites, according to IBM's vice president of messaging and workplace products for Lotus Software, Ken Bisconti, who was in Australia last week meeting customers in the process of standardising their e-mail environments.

Bisconti claims one-third of Australian customers have mixed environments and are moving to standardise so it is a market "ripe for change".

He said merger and acquisition activity is also driving the transition with the top 100 global companies such as Exxon Mobile and

DaimlyerChrysler in the process of moving to an exclusive Lotus environment.

Claiming there has been a shift away from Microsoft's offerings, Bisconti said IBM provides incentives such as discount pricing and has an entire program to encourage companies willing to rip and replace their e-mail infrastructure.

"Very few companies just look at e-mail versus e-mail, they look at entire collaboration capabilities from document sharing to IM and Web conferencing; Micrososft has never had a holistic approach to collaboration," he said.

"It doesn't just come down to price either but total cost of ownership (TCO) and the TCO for Lotus over Microsoft is significant at up to 50 per cent."

While Bisconti admits Microsoft has a strong presence in the US market, he said Lotus has the lead in regional markets, particularly in Australia where the company has a "big lead".

He said the companies are currently "neck and neck" globally but based on revenue figures from IDC, IBM has 41 per cent of the market compared to 39 per cent for Microsoft.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft Australia's Exchange product manager Andrew Cunningham disagreed claiming Outlook has 60 per cent of the global market and that is without offering incentives because "our strategy is based on simply providing the best product to suit the customers needs".

Cunningham said that since Exchange 2003 was launched in October more than 330,000 user seats have been deployed worldwide and more than 200 early adopter customers are in the process of migrating to the Exchange server.

"Our customer base certainly isn't shrinking, but customers have reached a fork in the road where they have to make an architecture choice whether to go with Lotus, WebSphere and DB2 or to choose the Microsoft alternative of SQL, Exchange and Sharepoint using our .Net strategy," he said.

"The market is certainly polarised, but we have been listening to our customers to meet their needs and they want productivity, dependability and cost control which is what we have delivered with Exchange."

A Meta Group report released earlier this year warned IT shops face significant decisions about their primary e-mail vendors between now and 2007.

This is because Microsoft has shifted away from its current Web store database to SQL and Domino shops will be forced to make decisions about moving to the IBM Workplace Messaging platform.

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