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Microsoft aims to poach IBM Lotus partners

Microsoft aims to poach IBM Lotus partners

If you're a partner in IBM Corp.'s Lotus business, Microsoft Corp. may soon knock on your door.

If you're a partner in IBM Corp.'s Lotus business, Microsoft Corp. may soon knock on your door. At its Worldwide Partner Conference 2005 on Friday, a Microsoft executive said the vendor sees an opportunity to lure partners away from IBM to Microsoft's collaboration software because of the technology migration from the Lotus/Domino platform to Workplace, IBM's next-generation collaboration suite.

"It's a great time to talk to [Lotus partners], given the transition," said Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Information Worker Product Management Group. "We might be able to encourage Lotus partners to do something around Microsoft's collaboration technology."

Capossela called Microsoft collaboration strategy one of the "core scenarios we're interested in winning in," and said the vendor is putting significant marketing muscle behind that aim.

Ryan Gavin, director of platform strategy for Microsoft, said because Microsoft offers tight integration across its collaboration products -- which include SharePoint Portal Server, Exchange Server, Outlook and Live Communications Server -- it will be a more streamlined offering for partners to market and sell to customers.

"Because of our approach and how we’re building these solutions, there are some premiums we can bring to bear on the integration side, whereas it will be a little more of a struggle [for IBM]," Gavin said. "It will be interesting to see how they play through on the Workplace evolution."

Martin Taylor, general manager of Microsoft's platform strategy, said he was speaking with an IBM partner at the conference who said his customers have to "make a leap to get to Workplace" and was interested in Microsoft's collaboration story, but did not know much about it.

Taylor said Microsoft plans to get the word out. "A lot of these partners really aren't aware of our offerings, and we have to help them understand," he said.

However, some IBM partners may not want to hear what Microsoft has to offer in collaboration. One IBM partner said it would take more than a technology transition for him to switch to Microsoft's team.

"Why would I go to Microsoft if the transition to Workplace is difficult?" said Jim Murphy, an IBM certified solution advisor for Principle Software, an IBM business partner in Waltham, Massachusetts. "IBM has done more to invest and enhance [partner] relationships [than Microsoft]. As far as making a move strictly because of technology, we've seen a tremendous embracing of Workplace among our customers. They are very excited about Workplace and are driving us to making the investment so we can support their interest. Our customers are driving us to support their requirements, and this will tell us what to do in the long run."

Furthermore, another partner said that Microsoft is creating a misconception by claiming there is a significant hurdle to cross when migrating from Notes/Domino to Workplace.

"There is no transition required," said Andrew Pollack, founder and president of Northern Collaborative Technologies, in Cumberland, Maine. "The Workplace Rich Client includes full support for existing and future Lotus Notes content and applications. It's not a port. The complete product code is still there."

Still, Microsoft does have what some might consider a strategic arrow in its quiver to lure partners away from IBM Lotus. The man credited with inventing Notes, Ray Ozzie, is now a CTO at Microsoft after the vendor acquired his company, Groove Networks, earlier this year.

In his work at Microsoft, Ozzie is developing collaboration and peer-to-peer enhancements for Microsoft Office, Capossela said -- IDG News Service

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