IBM Oct. 5 will begin selling a Web-based version of its popular Lotus Notes software for $3 per user per month, a move that puts Google directly in Big Blue's crosshairs.
An IBM spokesperson confirmed the release to the general public of LotusLive iNotes, which will include e-mail, calendaring and contact management applications. IBM will host these programs on its own servers and provision them to customers via the Internet, or the cloud.
Designed for small to large businesses, these applications will work with existing on-premises e-mail applications, including Lotus Notes and Microsoft's Office Outlook. Users will be able to access LotusLive iNotes from PCs or mobile computing devices.
With LotusLive iNotes, IBM seeks to undercut Google Apps, which Google began tailoring for businesses in 2007. However, there are enough differences to make the comparisons at least seem like different apples, if not apples and oranges.
LotusLive iNotes costs users $36 per year. Google Apps Standard Edition is free; the Premier Edition costs users $50 per user per year. The Premier Edition includes 24/7 support, more security and other options. Google Apps users also get 25GB of storage per inbox; LotusLive iNotes only offers 1GB.
Both LotusLive iNotes and Google Apps offer e-mail, calendaring and contacts, but the application similarities end there. For both its Standard and Premier editions, Google offers several other applications with Google Apps, including the Docs word processing, presentation and spreadsheet suite; the Sites wiki; a video application for businesses; and the Google Talk chat service.
IBM seems to be banking on the idea that some companies don't want all of the applications in Google Apps and would choose just the core e-mail, calendar and contacts programs. In its statement, the company stressed that LotusLive iNotes "is also ideal for employee segments of large enterprises which do not require all the capabilities of full-featured e-mail and collaboration software."
IBM did not miss the opportunity to take shots at Google:
""LotusLive iNotes is equally well-suited for small and medium-sized businesses, many of whom have discovered the convenience and savings of free or low-cost Web-based e-mail services but have grown weary of service outages, distracting advertisements, or security and privacy concerns that can impact employee productivity and confidence.""
However, more than 1.75 million businesses have signed up to use Google Apps, with hundreds of thousands of them paying for the Premier Edition. Google also started marketing and advertising Google Apps this past summer after Microsoft made some noise with Office Web Apps, that software giant's version of Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the cloud.
Despite Google's more than two-year head start with Google Apps, IBM's sterling reputation with enterprises will likely give it a wide window of opportunity in the SAAS (software as a service) collaboration market, which is a pretty open field to plow. Gartner expects 20 percent of companies will use hosted e-mail by 2012.
IBM is offering a free, 30-day trial for LotusLive iNotes here in English, Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese and Spanish.
LotusLive iNotes is not IBM's first foray into the SAAS market; IBM already offers IBM LotusLive Engage, a business collaboration suite, and LotusLive Connections, a SAAS version of its Connections social software suite.
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