Oracle received a tepid reaction to its new collaboration software product as local enterprises are wary of spending up on IT initiatives.
The database giant has unveiled a set of applications targeted at taking market share away from Microsoft's Exchange. The Oracle Collaboration Suite links previously stovepiped communications such as email, voicemail, appointments, documents and PowerPoint presentations on a single database and can also integrate Microsoft's Outlook.
Oracle cites two main benefits of its latest approach: the ability to handle lots of data and users by running on clusters of servers, and much lower licence and operating costs compared with Microsoft products.
While Gartner says recent changes to Microsoft's licensing scheme, under Licensing 6.0, may drive take-up, the market projections for Oracle's collaborative software are fairly modest.
Gartner estimates that by 2007, Oracle's Collaboration Suite will hold 20 per cent of the Smart Enterprise Suite market, a term that describes next-generation applications that group voice, data, email, fax and instant messaging within one repository, local Gartner analyst Daniel McHugh said.
US enterprise customers are wary after being burnt by past efforts in office and groupware products, such as the short-lived Oracle Office and it's almost-as-short-lived successor, InterOffice.
"We didn't have a very good experience with its office software," a CTO at a US university said. He asked not to be identified because he has a "good relationship" with Oracle based on the company's database and other products. "I don't think it had its heart in that product," he said.
Given the usage patterns of faculty and students, the whole idea of linking email to a database is of questionable merit, he said. "A database [in that configuration] induces overhead."
McHugh said the local market will not so much be wary of the product's usage as unwilling to part with money for the new software.
"You have to look at the maturity of [the Australian] market. In 2002, enterprise customers are looking at the immediate business value of IT initiatives," McHugh said.
"Any IT investments are looked upon much more critically," he said, adding IT managers have an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" policy and collaborative software would be low on their list of priorities.
When unveiling the suite, Oracle chairman and CEO Larry Ellison took the opportunity to criticise Microsoft for promoting the use of what he called fragmented data stores for different applications. Ellison stressed Oracle was providing a single data store for the suite with the Oracle9i database.
In addition, Ellison repeated his controversial proposal to centralise medical and criminal records in the US, offering Oracle's services for a system he claims will be safer and cheaper.