Oracle enters collaboration software market

Competition in the collaboration and messaging software market is intensifying as database giant Oracle joins other players, such as IBM and Microsoft, in the scramble for market share.

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By  Matthew Southwell Published  September 5, 2002

|~||~||~|Competition in the collaboration and messaging software market is intensifying as database giant Oracle joins other players, such as IBM and Microsoft, in the scramble for market share.

Oracle’s Collaboration Suite combines enterprise file services and file server consolidation with e-mail, voicemail, fax support, voice-enabled collaboration and its recently acquired Steltor calendaring technology. Due to start shipping at the beginning of September, the vendor says the product will have a favourable price point compared to its rivals’ offerings.

According to a Gartner Group research note, the combination of messaging and content functions “could allow Oracle to mount a significant challenge in collaboration support systems.”

“Although the Oracle Collaboration Suite targets Exchange and IBM/Lotus’ Domino… its functions extend well beyond those of an e-mail server. Oracle plans to use the Collaboration Suite as its unified messaging offering,” it adds.

Oracle’s Middle East operation is already planning to aggressively promote its new line of business to both local partners and end users. However, Oracle’s sales team is going to have its work cut out if it is to win in the handheld messaging and collaboration space due to the sizable head start both Microsoft and IBM/Lotus hold in the global and local markets.

Oracle has committed to integrating full Arabic support throughout the Collaboration Suite. There are several components of the suite, including the Internet File System (IFS) and e-mail, which already support Arabic.

“We have tested a load of modules for Arabic support… the calendar is the only piece that doesn’t support Arabic,” says Ayman Abouseif, senior marketing director, Eastern & Central Europe, Middle East & Africa, Oracle. “We have a plan to introduce Arabic support,” he adds.

Some of the standalone components of the suite, such as IFS, have already been tested by regional clients. Also, the vendor has been conducting “serious work with our partners,” with IFS and mail, says Abouseif. “When the suite ships there is going to be another round of activity with our partners so they can get more confidence with the suite as a product, as opposed to standalone modules,” he adds.

Oracle isn’t going to be satisfied by just working with its own channel organisation. According to Abouseif, the vendor is planning to woo Microsoft Exchange partners to its product, in an attempt to rapidly assemble a channel already familiar with the messaging medium. “There are a reasonable amount of Microsoft partners that we are interested in working with,” comments Abouseif

“The Exchange [partners] understand messaging and these projects will include some sort of migration… Also many of these partners will be able to offer an alternative to just Exchange,” he adds.

According to Abouseif, Oracle’s Collaboration Suite is going to offer organisations considerable cost of ownership benefits over comparable products. Oracle is pitching its suite at the introductory price of US$60 per named user for a perpetual license and US$15 for one year (US pricing). Oracle is also claiming to deliver lower operating and maintenance costs with its Collaboration Suite. “[Collaboration Suite] will work out much better for organisations and reduce ongoing costs,” says Abouseif.

However, Oracle is unlikely to have it all its own way. As Haider Salloum, server marketing manager, Microsoft Gulf, points out, the vendor is totally unproven in the messaging and collaboration space. “Oracle is not a player in this market yet. There are no customers or success stories so far,” says Salloum.

“It’s a new business and they will claim that the can do better, but it hasn’t been proven. [Oracle] will leverage some customers with large database investment and they will throw it in at a very cheap price,” he predicts.

However, if Oracle is to make headway against either Microsoft or IBM/Lotus, the vendor should focus on delivering the smart enterprise suite (SES) potential of its Collaboration Suite. According to Gartner Group, the SES market will hit US$1.5 billion by 2005. The analyst house describes SES as combining content management, knowledge management and collaboration within and between enterprise organisations. It also says that such solutions blur the line between the traditional office suite and core ERP-type business apps.

“If Oracle presents it [Collaboration Suite] merely as an alternative to Exchange or Domino e-mail and calendaring, the Collaboration Suite faces an uphill battle to win market share in the well-entrenched Microsoft and IBM/Lotus customer base,” states the Gartner Group research note.

“Collaboration Suite has greater potential as an SES, but Oracle must understand the requirements for this type of offering and then must devote sufficient resources to develop the market,” Gartner adds.||**||

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