Microsoft takes annual jab at IBM/Lotus

Microsoft announces free collaboration wares on the eve of Lotusphere

Microsoft, taking its annual dig at rival IBM/Lotus, announced Monday a set of free tools it plans to ship in February to help customers migrate from Notes/Domino.

Like clockwork, Microsoft every year uses the eve of IBM's annual Lotusphere customer conference to entice users with its own collaboration wares. Lotusphere begins Monday in Orlando, Florida, runs through Thursday, and is expected to draw 7,000 users.

The two giants have been locked in a battle for years over e-mail, instant messaging, conferencing, and now real-time communications tools such as voice and video.

This year, Microsoft is releasing a trio of tools and templates designed to ease a switch to its unified communications platform, which Microsoft has upgraded with the recently released Exchange 2007 and forthcoming upgrades to SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

"This is what, the fifth or sixth time that Microsoft has built a magic box to migrate from Notes," said Ed Brill, a business unit executive for worldwide sales at IBM/Louts. "What makes this one any more likely to succeed?"

The set of tools, which are similar to those released in past years but with different names, is highlighted by Microsoft Transporter Suite for Lotus Notes.

"We have had a set of disjointed tools in the past," said Elisa Graceffo, group product manager for collaboration and portals at Microsoft. "What we have really done is unified them into a single suite with a common look and feel and enhanced the functionality."

Transporter helps walk customers from the planning stage through execution of messaging and directory migration. It includes coexistence tools to run Domino and Exchange side-by-side and migration tools for directories, mailboxes and applications.

Users can migrate accounts and mailboxes separately and move access-control lists during application migration.

In addition, Microsoft's new PowerShell tool can be used to script the entire migration.

Transporter also analyzes Notes application infrastructure, helps in designing the best plan for migrating those applications and moves data from template-based Notes applications to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, a sharing application native to the Windows server operating system.

In addition, Microsoft will make available role-based templates for SharePoint My Site, which are personal portals customized with specific user data and links to documents and Web sites. The templates let users quickly set up portals related to their jobs. The first templates include a handful of different job roles: sales account manager, financial analyst, staffing specialist, administrative assistant, customer services representative, IT engineer and marketing manager.

The third piece of the Microsoft lineup is Windows SharePoint Server 3.0 application templates, a set of 40 templates designed as starting points for creating customized portal applications. The templates are focused specifically on sales and marketing, human-resources and finance processes, business and IT operations, and project management. There are also templates focused on education, healthcare, professional services, retail and financial services.

The Transporter tool can be used to migrate data into the templates.

Microsoft plans to make the tools and templates available for free from its Web site in the next 30 days.

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