Fighting the perception that it's an also-ran in the corporate messaging market, Novell is trying to grow its user base with upgraded thin-client e-mail software that is scheduled to ship next month.
Novell is positioning the new release as a lightweight but secure messaging tool for workers who don't sit at a desk all day, such as doctors, nurses, airline pilots and college students and professors.
The strategy "does make sense. That's really where you're going to see the expansion of messaging," said Michael Osterman, an analyst at Osterman Research.
The upgraded Novell NetMail 3.1 software, which was called Novell Internet Messaging System in previous releases, was announced earlier this month at the company's BrainShare Europe user conference. Novell is adding support for Windows NT and Windows 2000 servers as part of the new release.
IBM's Lotus Software Group subsidiary and Microsoft are the acknowledged heavyweights of messaging. But Osterman said that neither company offers a behind-the-firewall thin-client tool like NetMail, though both support Web-based e-mail.
Users of earlier NetMail releases said it's less expensive and easier to administer than enterprise-level products such as Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Domino, and Novell's own GroupWise software. NetMail offers the messaging basics, they said, including server software that manages a mailbox from which users can send and receive messages, plus a calendar and an address book.
"GroupWise is a very thick client. It really didn't give us the opportunity of breaking out what we wanted to give students," said Sam White, manager of NetWare and Windows NT support at Georgia State University in Atlanta. The school has 60,000 NetMail end-user accounts on one Novell NetWare server and 4,500 GroupWise accounts on 14 systems, White said.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines bought 30,000 NetMail licenses last year and has rolled out accounts to 11,000 pilots and flight crew members so far. Employees can access their accounts from PCs at "crew bases" at hub airports, as well as from their homes.
Eric Jorgensen, manager of Intel operating system services at Southwest, said about 8,000 of the airline's corporate employees were already using GroupWise. But NetMail was a better option for pilots and other workers who don't spend most of their time in offices, he said.
Another potential selling point for Novell is its products' ability to manage user identities from a central directory.
Jorgensen said the use of Novell's eDirectory software to link employee identities in Southwest's messaging system with the ones in its human resources database was another key factor in the decision to go with NetMail. Changes made in the human resources system automatically trigger actions in the e-mail account, he noted.