Buyer’s Market: A Guide to Groupware

There was once a time when e-mail was simply e-mail. Products focused primarily on sending and receiving electronic messages. And that was enough.

But e-mail products are not as one dimensional anymore. Companies are demanding more functionality from e-mail clients and servers, leaving products that merely send and receive mail behind.

When cc:Mail was the top dog of the e-mail world, it boasted about 14 million users. In the first half of last year alone, however, the total number of new groupware users passed 21 million, according to a report by International Data Corp. (IDC, www.idc.com).

Of that 21 million, Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) sold 8.1 million seats of Exchange; Lotus Development Corp. (www.lotus.com) sold 7.4 million seats of Notes; Novell Inc. (www.novell.com) garnered 2.7 million GroupWise users; and all other groupware packages accounted for 3.2 million seats.

The distinct market leaders are Microsoft and Lotus. Although Microsoft surpassed Lotus in sales for the first half of 1999, Lotus achieved 4 million new seats in the second quarter, its best quarter to date. In total, Lotus has the predominant spot, recently boasting more than 50 million users.

In terms of individual product growth, the IDC report points to the integration of Exchange with Microsoft’s BackOffice Server Suite as positioning the messaging platform for continued growth.

The limitation with this integration is that it is confined to the Windows platform. Lotus Notes, however, is available for practically any platform, including Linux.

In the Pipeline

The forthcoming Exchange 2000, which Microsoft says is one of the foundations of many of its strategies -- anytime-anywhere access, knowledge workers, and the digital dashboard -- is showing promise as an enterprise-level piece of groupware, with features to compete with Novell and Lotus in the high-end spectrum (see Great Expectations on page 35).

But Microsoft’s main competitors in this arena have new releases up their sleeves, as well.

Novell is at work on its next generation groupware, code-named Utopia. Slated to ship in the second half of this year, Utopia’s alterations consist of tighter integration with Novell Directory Services (NDS) and a more modular approach. The modular approach lets users pick and choose between which components they need.

Reports state that Utopia also will include more XML functionality, Novell’s own public key infrastructure security software, and an instant messaging client. The forthcoming version will have more in the way of development tools and server-side APIs specifically for customization, an area some analysts consider a weak spot of GroupWise’s.

GroupWise already has support for directory services in the name of NDS, and Microsoft and Lotus are adding directory-service support. Microsoft is integrating Exchange with Active Directory AD, and Lotus is working to make Domino interoperate via LDAP.

Last month, Lotus began pushing into the unified messaging space with two new client interfaces to Domino Server designed to increase mobility. Lotus considers unified messaging a concept, rather than a product, and introduced a family of interfaces to deliver access to e-mail, voice mail, pages, and faxes for users of handheld devices, two-way pagers, smart phones, and devices that are equipped for the wireless access protocol (WAP).

The new Lotus clients are iNotes and Mobile Notes. INotes provides Web browsers, standards-based messaging clients, and Microsoft Outlook users access to the messaging, collaborative applications, and offline support that Domino R5 offers. When used in conjunction with the Lotus Mobile Services the company will offer for Domino, Mobile Notes will provide access to secure information such as e-mail, calendar, and address book for anytime access to critical information. Mobile Notes and Mobile Services for Domino 1.x will be available later in first quarter 2000. Future releases of Mobile Services for Domino and Mobile Notes will provide offline support for key devices and the ability for developers to build applications for wireless and mobile devices.

Make no mistake about it: Competition is going to heat up on the groupware battlefield. With Microsoft positioning Exchange 2000 as one of its key applications, and the other products evolving as well, expect significant advances with each.