Messaging seeks new frontiers

Messaging vendors are rolling out low-cost e-mail systems that have been slimmed down to meet the needs of mobile and deskless workers in settings such as hospitals and factories.

IBM last week unveiled Lotus Workplace Messaging, a Web-based e-mail and contact management system built on the company's WebSphere application server and DB2 database technology. Targeting the same deskless population, messaging software vendor Sendmail earlier this month teamed with Hewlett-Packard and Intel to develop a low-cost Linux-based messaging system.

This targeted segment of enterprise workers who are not currently serviced by e-mail represents a sizable opportunity for messaging vendors, according to David Ferris, president of San Francisco-based Ferris Research.

"There is a substantial number of people out there, roughly 30 percent of employees, that are in fact deskless and don't have e-mail from their organization," Ferris said. "Clearly, vendors have seen the opportunity."

A highly scalable, cost-effective messaging system built to leverage existing infrastructure investments fills a clear need in enterprises of all sizes, according to Ken Bisconti, vice president of messaging solutions at IBM.

Low cost is one critical factor to the success of Workplace Messaging, Bisconti said. The system is priced at US$29 per user, but with certain configurations, long-term costs can drop as low as $1 per user, per month, he said. A traditional Lotus Notes setup can cost more than three times that amount, Ferris said.

Furthermore, because e-mail can help eliminate expensive paper-based processes such as memos, pay stubs, and HR documents, Workplace Messaging can also help take costs out of the system and increase employee responsiveness, Bisconti said.

"Companies are looking for ways to create end-to-end (electronic) business processes that do not culminate in a paper process once you get to manufacturing line or distributions environment," Bisconti said.

Workplace Messaging supports any LDAP Version 3 environment and integrates with existing mail systems. Future versions will run on Linux and will feature integration with WebSphere Portal.

Sendmail and HP's Workforce Mail offering combines Sendmail's e-mail software, HP ProLiant Servers, and Intel's Centrino low-power wireless platform running on Linux. The joint solution is based on Linux because it proved to be the most cost-effective platform for deploying a messaging system, according to Sendmail officials.

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