Oracle announced on Wednesday a new suite of back-end collaboration software that it hopes will compete with Microsoft's Exchange software.
The new software includes ready-made links to Oracle's 9i databases, unified messaging and calendaring technology from newly acquired Steltor in Montreal.
The move is designed, in part, to prevent Microsoft from controlling the messaging market and thereby being able to dictate to Oracle how it will interoperate with Exchange, Rene Bonvanie, vice president of product marketing at Oracle, said.
"I think at the end of the day, Lotus is irrelevant in this market," Bonvanie said. "If we don't stand up, Microsoft will gobble up everything, including Lotus, the way they did to Novell a few years ago."
Bonvanie was referring to Groupwise, the messaging product from Novell. "At the end of the day, two companies will battle it out for predominance, and we think that we have a very serious shot at this," said Bonvanie.
Not surprisingly, Microsoft and Lotus Software Group executives were somewhat dismissive of the announcement.
"We've been in this market for five, six-plus years. We've done a lot of heavy lifting," said Chris Baker, lead product manager for Exchange. "So they really have, maybe at best, 1.0 products."
While Oracle's offering may have strengths that Microsoft doesn't, it's not a total software product, he said, "It's very much a 'Me too'".
Ed Brill, manager at IBM software, offered similar views.
"I have a deja-vu sense," Brill said. "This is like the ninth time that they've tried to get into the market."
Still, one Notes customer, US-based company Lenox, is about to switch to Exchange because of the cost of maintenance and difficulty integrating its R4.6 version with Microsoft's Office productivity software.
Had that decision not already been made, though, Bob Palmer, vice president of IT at Lenox, said, "I think that we would consider it. To what degree, it's hard to say without understanding [the product]. One of the issues with Oracle is that everything is database-driven, and that requires database licensing. It's a very expensive proposition to get into that ball game.
"If they could provide a solution that scales in a cost-effective manner," then it might be worth it, he said.
"Microsoft, for better or worse, allow you to get into various solutions at a more reasonable cost. You don't have to be a Fortune 500 company to deploy their solutions," Palmer said.
"I don't think most people will rip and replace," said David Ferris, president of Ferris Research in San Francisco. "But the future is uncertain. It's quite conceivable that Exchange users get fed up with the complexity of the thing, and that gradually people move their Notes applications away from Notes. In that scenario, and if Oracle Collaboration Suite turns out to be a strong offering, it could do well. Plenty of 'ifs' along that route, however."