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IBM Takes on Google in Corporate Cloud

IBM and Google Gmail in the enterprise

With its launch next week of LotusLive iNotes, IBM clearly believes it will become a legitimate threat to Google and its popular Apps Premier suite for enterprise customers that need low-cost, cloud-based business applications that -- above all else -- are reliable.

LotusLive iNotes, detailed on a relatively new IBM Web site, will cost $36 per user, compared to $50 a year for Google Apps Premier. However, it will only offer 1GB of storage per user versus 25GB for the Google application suite.

Analysts said IBM's foray into the lightweight, cloud-based e-mail service doesn't offer as many features and functions as Google's offering, but the company could eventually pose a significant threat if it ever delivers the bells and whistles to match its reputation as the gold standard for computing services.

"On the one hand, IBM is finally delivering something in this space and it should be applauded," Gartner analyst Tom Austin told InternetNews.com. "But the way I view it, it's just an early down payment on a strategy that's too late."

Austin said that both Google and Microsoft, which will soon offer cloud-based version of its ubiquitous Office suite, have weaknesses that IBM could exploit to its advantage to maintain its installed Lotus Notes and Domino customer base. However, IBM's sluggish reaction to the explosion in cloud-based applications may have left to big of a gap for it to close.

"It's feature deficient," Austin said. "The user interface is different from what [IBM] said it would look like. They said it would look like Notes and it sure as heck doesn't. And where's the meeting scheduling feature? It's a personal calendar."

Features aside, it's clear IBM hopes to take advantage of the recent Gmail service outages that have inconvenienced users and raised questions as to whether Google is trying to do too much, too soon.

For Fortune 500 companies looking to get their feet wet with cloud-based applications, IBM offers a familiar option. IBM hammers this home on its LotusLive iNotes, highlighting the service's security, offline capability and cloud centralized calendar and contracts.

"This is a positive development for IBM and will keep the faithful happy," Austin said. "But none of its competitors are going to run scared from this."