When IBM revealed Jan. 14 that it had landed Panasonic as a new customer for its LotusLive collaboration software, it said it was partially replacing Microsoft's Exchange e-mail platform at the Japanese electronics maker.
Microsoft fought back Jan. 15, offering training vouchers to the first 500 Lotus Notes professionals who want to learn to use Microsoft's Office productivity suite, Exchange e-mail server, SharePoint collaboration software, and Office Communications Server platform. Those training vouchers are worth $300 per user.
Julia White, director on the Exchange product management team at Microsoft, said she believes that will be attractive to developers because "the market momentum is going that way."
Microsoft partners Binary Tree, CASAHL Technologies and Quest Software, which have shuttled more than 35 million Lotus Notes users to Microsoft in the last 10 years, are helping Microsoft move Lotus Notes users to Microsoft platforms.
White also downplayed IBM's Panasonic win, in which more than 150,000 Panasonic employees are using IBM's LotusLive collaboration software. LotusLive is hosted on IBM's cloud of servers and delivered to workers over the Internet. It is one of the largest cloud computing deployments on record and replaces Microsoft Exchange e-mail server, as well as traditional on-premise Lotus Notes and other tools.
But White implied that IBM's replacement of Exchange negligible, noting that it was only for a 5 percent of Panasonic's U.S.-based employees. She added that 40 percent of Panasonic's employees used Lotus Notes, with the remainder using a proprietary e-mail system.
"I would qualify that as [IBM's] Notes [software group] claiming a win of a Notes customer," White added.
Still, more than 18 million users are using IBM LotusLive iNotes, IBM's Web-based e-mail, which costs $3 per user, per month.
Microsoft offers Exchange Online Deskless Worker, which provides provides e-mail, calendaring and contact management functionality on par with IBM's LotusLive iNotes application. This package also includes anti-virus and anti-spam filters, as well as Microsoft Outlook Web Access Light for access to company e-mail.
Users who require more may license a standard edition of this Exchange Online product, which includes mobile capabilities, MAPI support and a 25 gigabyte mailbox, for $5 per user, per month.
White also touted Exchange Online as easier to use than LotusLive iNotes because it comes from the same code base as Microsoft's on-premise Exchange Server. LotusLive iNotes leverages the code base of Outblaze, whose messaging assets IBM acquired and repositioned as LotusLive iNotes. Microsoft's seamless code base between on-premise and online services makes life easier to upgrade, service and maintain.
White also stressed that Microsoft believes the collaboration and productivity space is moving to a software-plus-services model, with headquarters with thousands of employees keeping with their on-premise Exchange solutions and remote offices perhaps choosing to use online iterations of Exchange.
Whatever the case, the sniping between IBM and Microsoft set the stage for dramatic theater at IBM's annual Lotusphere event, which kicks off in earnest Jan. 18. IBM is expected to focus extensively on cloud computing at the event.
Moving forward into 2010, IBM will have its hands full competing with Microsoft and Google, which until the last several months since IBM, Microsoft and Cisco introduced Web-based e-mail and collaboration suites, found itself fending off Zoho and other SAAS startups.