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The Deal: $20K to Leave Exchange For Lotus

IBM launched the latest jab in its bout with Microsoft, offering partners up to $20,000 to help customers move from Exchange to Linux-based versions of Lotus Notes and Domino.

Aimed at Microsoft's corporate e-mail accounts, Big Blue calls the poaching play "Migrate to the Penguin." The maneuver is the latest by IBM to get customers out of Microsoft's code and into its own products based on open source Linux. It's also a shrewd pitch for Lotus.

The effort is an expansion of IBM's Move2Lotus program, in which more than 100 IBM partners are developing migration tools to help customers make the transition to Lotus Notes and Domino.

To spur migration, 'Migrate to the Penguin' includes a rebate program for IBM software resellers who move customers from Microsoft Exchange to Lotus Notes and Domino on Linux.

Resellers can receive a rebate for each seat of "trade up" licenses, up to a maximum of 1,000 seats per Passport Advantage site number or Passport Advantage Express site number. The rebate offers $20 per seat with a maximum rebate of $20,000 per IBM partner.

The program is available now in the U.S. and Canada, and will be introduced across the globe during 2006.

Moreover, new resources in Move2Lotus include free education and certification for Lotus Notes and Domino 7 to help partners keep up with the latest Notes/Domino code, as well as a Proof of Concept plan with a hosted Lotus Notes and Domino system.

This "try before they buy" plan gives customers the ability to log-in to a Lotus Notes and Domino environment and allow the customer to use their own data.

IBM said Lotus Notes and Domino 7 are growing fast. While the company won't divulge specific figures of its software groups, it said this category reaped double-digit revenue growth for the Lotus portfolio in 2005.

IDC last year said both Microsoft and IBM are roughly equal in terms of market share in the $2.5 billion collaboration software market, at about 40 percent each.

No surprise then why the rivals are trying to beat each other up.

Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and fellow executives stormed IBM's back yard in New York City, touting how the forthcoming Office 2007 system, Windows Mobile software and its upcoming Exchange Server will work together.

The event, in which Ballmer said IBM is focusing on services in contrast to Microsoft's devotion to providing actual software, accompanied a $500 million "People Ready" advertising campaign.