Despite the release of a new and improved Lotus Notes 8, it is unlikely that IBM's e-mail software can make any dent in the market dominance of Microsoft Outlook.
According to Dion Wiggins, director of strategic development at Strat-etech Consulting, Microsoft's dominance of the office productivity software market is part of the reason for users' reluctance to adopt Lotus Notes as their e-mail client. The Microsoft Office suite bundles Outlook along with its popular word processor, Word, and allows the user to edit e-mail messages with it.
And although Lotus Notes 8 offers an alternative to Word and includes the Open Office interface, which allows the user to perform word processing tasks from within the client, including working on Microsoft Office documents, Wiggins is unsure if this is enough to sway Microsoft Outlook users.
"While [the Open Office function is] useful, it really depends on the previously installed software. Open Office and Microsoft Office are not 100 percent compatible and there are discrepancies between systems," he said in an e-mail interview.
A Microsoft spokesperson told ZDNet Australia sister site ZDNet Asia: "There is a big difference between opening a document and seeing the document just as the creator intended ... when someone claims you can open an Office document, there is a wide spectrum in quality of rendering the document."
Therefore, a company might need to weigh the cost of migrating to another system, which can be considerable if a company is well-entrenched in one, said Wiggins.
According to an IDC Asia-Pacific report, until the first half of 2005, Microsoft had 48 percent of the messaging market with its previous mail version, Exchange 2003, and its share is growing fast.
In contrast, the same report showed that Lotus had a 12 percent share of e-mail servers.
In January this year, Microsoft launched a set of tools aimed at smoothening the migration of data from Lotus to its own platform, aiming to capture greater market share.
But Big Blue is not throwing in the towel yet. Lotus Notes 8 sees a considerable update to its previous interface and functions. After a three-year design process, IBM has integrated Lotus's IM (instant messenger) client, Sametime, as well as an RSS feed reader and the Open Office document editor.
"We've found that people are far less productive when they have to shuttle between applications, so we've put all the applications that people usually use, like IM, a word processor and calendaring function into one space," said Marty Moore, interaction designer for Lotus software at IBM, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.
IBM has added a new feature that allows user-built "widgets", which are based on the open source framework Eclipse, to be placed within the Lotus Notes interface.
"There is a vibrant community of developers building applications in Eclipse, and a user will be able to put third-party applications within Lotus Notes so that more can be done within Notes," said Moore.