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Oracle Takes on SharePoint With Beehive Upgrade

PBX vendors and collaboration app makers have been put on notice: Oracle is adding several new features to its Beehive enterprise collaboration software, including unified communications and Web-based collaboration.

The features don't come cheap from Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL). The product starts at $50 per user for basic features plus $30 per user for Beehive Team Collaboration for a total base price of $80 per user.

Additional features cost more. Beehive Messaging is $30 per user, Beehive Synchronous Collaboration is $20 per user, and Beehive Voicemail is $20 per user for a total price of $150 per user for those who buy the whole package. All prices are list price, not street price.

"If you compare us list price to list price with [Microsoft] SharePoint, we're lower, not higher," said David Gilmour, senior vice president of collaboration technologies for Oracle.

Since the launch of the Oracle Beehive product in November, the company claims to have found demand for the product in every market vertical. "People work together in every organization," Gilmour said.

He added that the product is modern and new. "As the world's largest enterprise software company, we said, 'if we had a clean sheet of paper, what would we design?' Beehive takes the different segments of the collaboration market, teamwork and unified communications, and puts them together on one unified platform," said Gilmour.

The foundation of the product is Personal Information Management (PIM), such as calendaring and e-mail. Beehive adds wikis with RSS feeds and team workspaces. With presence information, it can let Beehive Messaging tell colleagues not just "I'm away" but "I'm in room 303 meeting with Sally."

Add unified communications (UC), and faxes and voicemails come directly into e-mail. The UC function also stores voice and Web communications for compliance purposes.

With other Oracle software products, Beehive can do more. It can connect to any custom application that an enterprise has built to run on Fusion middleware, for example, using open platforms such as Sun's Java Management Extensions (JMX).

Oracle Information Rights management eases collaboration with contractors and outsourcers. Rights management authenticates the reader of a document to ensure that only the recipient of that document can use it.

It helps compliance by providing a unified records management policy and by storing everything in one place, Gilmour added. "Compliance is a big weakness in many of the market leaders today. If you get a bunch of different collaboration products, they'll store things in different places," he said. "It's not even clear how you'd do compliance with products scattered all over the place."

Although the product integrates nicely with other Oracle software, Oracle Beehive collaboration does support some popular free software. "We use 'free' IM clients here at Oracle," Gilmour said. "I use Pidgin, some here use Jabber."

The software is designed to allow businesses to use what they want. "We're positioned to support free products," he said. "Mozilla's Thunderbird mail client is free. The mail client in Apple is free. If you want to use Beehive as a platform to use free open source clients, it's an open platform, and you don't need to buy any other software."

Collaboration software supports important work that happens when defined business processes don't tell employees how to do what they need to do. "We will never have a process for everything," Gilmour said. "Collaboration is what I do in the white space between business processes."