Microsoft, IBM duke it out

The past couple of weeks have shown Microsoft landing the first punch in what's bound to be a fun tussle between Redmond and Big Blue. Microsoft is looking to use a whole host of downloadable code freebies to woo customers away from IBM's Domino to Exchange, but you may not want to follow that free sugar trail just yet.

First, what's the deal with Vienna, the new code name for the OS that will succeed Vista? Supposedly, it's "more closely related to Vista than Blackcomb." But other than beginning with a V, I'm not sure how. What about Venal? As in "a venal corporation needs to force more desktop technology down our throats for gut-wrenching profits." Or maybe Violence, as in what will happen when I walk into a budget meeting in 2008 with Vienna screenshots and cost figures. I could think of more, but I'd tick off the editor.

Let's get back to freebies. Redmond has come out with a whole host of beefed-up migration tools for Exchange. OK, they're pretty much designed to suck customers away from Lotus Notes and onto Exchange, but that may not be such a bad thing, depending on your situation. If you're in that boat, Microsoft is making three key tools available for free download: the Microsoft Application Analyzer 2006 for Lotus Domino, Microsoft Data Migrator 2006 for Lotus Domino, and the newly developed Windows SharePoint Services Application Templates.

Application Analyzer comes first, and it's pretty much a documentation tool for showing how to move from Lo to Ex. Data Migrator comes next, and it's designed to migrate your basic Notes apps into SharePoint apps along with the SharePoint Services Application Templates -- but only up to a point, and a pretty general point at that. Organizations that have spent serious bucks on building custom Notes applications will still need significantly more porting muscle to move that code over to Exchange. But if that doesn't bother you and you want to get started on your Notes exodus right away, Microsoft immediately offers Exchange connectors for Notes mail and scheduling functions as well as an updated Migration Wizard.

Sounds pretty good for customers who might be frustrated with Notes, right? If you're thinking this represents a big investment in anti-IBM bits and bytes, you're correct. And, no, it's not because there's a sudden weakness in the Notes product line that Microsoft is looking to exploit. It's because there's simply fewer fresh enterprise e-mail clients around -- "fresh" meaning those without an existing commitment to a major collaboration platform. So Microsoft's got to take those customers from competitors, and it's chosen IBM's brood as the first target.

Frankly, Big Blue has little choice but to return the favor. So even though Microsoft has struck the first blow, as it were, you can expect a counter swipe from IBM. And soon. So if you're an existing Notes customer, there's probably a good chance you can finagle some freebies out of IBM in the near future. After all, neither IBM nor Microsoft can concentrate solely on grabbing new customers; they've got to keep a firm grip on their existing ones, too.

And as long as Microsoft and IBM are starting this little war, you might as well check out the rest of the competition, too. For example, --InfoWorld just gave a Technology of the Year award to the Gordano Messaging Suite, which was feat ured prominently in our Exchange Killer review last year. And let's not forget Novell and Groupwise. True, it's never been my favorite collaboration platform, but Novell has been doing quite a bit of innovation deep in the bowels of Utah, so who knows? Best to stay on top of all these variables before making any lasting decisions.

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