IBM Takes Lotus Deskless

IBM Tuesday became the latest firm to offer up an
enterprise email product for “deskless” workers, unveiling IBM Lotus
Workplace Messaging.


Geared to extending email to factory floor workers, retail clerks, airline
employees and other workers who just need “baseline” email capabilities,
Workplace Messaging is a Web-based offering that runs on IBM’s WebSphere
Internet infrastructure software and uses its DB2 Universal Database. IBM
said Workplace Messaging can integrate with IBM Lotus Domino and other
standards-based messaging infrastructures.

“It’s about providing email access to the unserved user population inside
our accounts and other accounts,” John Caffrey, manager of messaging
solutions for Lotus, told internetnews.com. Caffrey noted that
between 30 and 35 percent of employees inside many organizations do not
currently have access to email.


Emeryville, Calif.-based Sendmail, which last week unveiled
Workforce Mail, a competing offering targeting the same space, puts that
figure a little higher. Sendmail said a little more than half of all
employees in a typical enterprise are “deskless” mobile workers and that
many organizations have found it too costly and complex to equip deskless
workers with email capabilities.

“Enterprises are looking for less expensive email seats, and service
providers are looking to increase their revenue by offering additional
services,” said Joyce Graff, vice president and research director for
Gartner. “These two pressures are moving the enterprise and Internet mail
markets together into a single messaging market that serves enterprises,
extended enterprises, extranets and service providers with standards-based
messaging decoupled from other collaboration support functions.”


“To us, it’s kind of like rounding out our portfolio,” IBM’s Caffrey said,
noting that Big Blue already has solutions for workers that “live in mail
all day long” and need a rich, high-fidelity user experience, and users
that “live in portals and Web browsers.”


Workplace Messaging adds a solution for the rest of the workers, ones who
often only need access to basic email — even employees that use shared
workstations or kiosks.

“We’re offering another companion product that allows us to service the
rest of the users inside of an organization at a price point that makes
sense for them.”


Reaching those deskless workers can be critical, according to research firm
IDC. “Providing email to deskless workers enables the organization to speak
to all employees at the same time with a consistent voice,” said Mark
Levitt, vice president of Collaborative Computing at IDC. “Deskless workers
feel more connected to the organization because they know what’s happening,
which tends to improve morale and employee satisfaction.”


Caffrey said Lotus took design elements from its iNotes product and scaled
down the scope of functions in order to create Workplace Messaging.


“We tried to build a simple to use product that can be tailored
specifically to a user group inside an organization based on the
organization’s wants and needs,” he said. He noted that on the server side
administration feels very similar to Domino. “If you know how to administer
Domino, you can probably figure out pretty quickly how to do administration
of Workplace Messaging,” he said.


It contains an auto-provisioning feature which means the administrator only
has to put an entry for an individual in the directory and that person is
able to use email. It also features policy management features which allow
organizations to assign users to particular groups and grant them granular
levels of capability.


IBM has also partnered with anti-spam technology specialist Brightmail to increase Workplace Messaging’s anti-spam capabilities.

IBM is setting a higher price point than competitor Sendmail. The firm said
it is available now for a suggested retail price of $29 per user, whereas
Sendmail’s offering comes in a $8.50 per seat. But Caffrey noted that IBM
will provide discounts for volume customers, adding that Big Blue believes
the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the product, including the $5.80 per
user per year maintenance fee, will come in below $3 per user per month for
a 5,000 to 10,000 user customer.


Pricing and packaging for the product includes IBM WebSphere Application
Server, DB2 Universal Database and LDAP directory. It supports Windows 98
and Windows 2000 on the desktop, and Windows 2000 and AIX on the server. It
does not yet support Windows Server 2003. However, Caffrey noted, “We have
another release scheduled on the second half of the year,” explaining that
it will add support for additional platforms according to customer
feedback. Linux is almost certainly on the list, he said.


Workplace Messaging provides language support for English, French, German,
Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Simplified
and Traditional Chinese.

Still, Oracle, which offers up its own Oracle Collaboration Suite, said IBM
is playing catch-up with Workplace Messaging.


“IBM has one email strategy for knowledge workers and another for deskless
workers,” said Steve Levine, vice president of marketing for Oracle
Collaboration Suite. “One relies on unstructured data and the other on
structured data. It’s confusing and gives customers a reason to closely
evaluate integration costs versus return.”

He added, “Lotus Notes is features rich, but on a proprietary platform.
Workplace Messaging is on a database, but is email only. The bottom line is
that IBM’s latest collaboration offering is clear validation of Oracle
Collaboration Suite. We leverage an unbreakable database with the most
comprehensive tools for building collaborative applications. Think about
it: if DB2 could manage unstructured data, why isn’t Lotus Notes already
running on it?”

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