Google Targets Notes, IBM Says ‘Bring it On’

Google has released a migration tool for companies interested in moving from IBM’s Lotus Notes to the search giant’s Google Apps Premier suite of cloud-based applications. Notes has also long been a target of Microsoft looking to woo customers to its Exchange e-mail service, but this is the first time Google has publicly gone after IBM users.

The stakes in the multi-billion dollar market for corporate e-mail and collaboration services are huge. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), a relative newcomer, is touting recent customer wins including automotive supplier Valeo and Fairchild Semiconductor, which switched from Notes to Google Apps Premier.

In total, four companies – Fairchild Semiconductor, Hamilton Beach, JohnsonDiversey and Valeo – migrated almost 50,000 users in total from Notes to Google Apps, according to Google.

Google says it sees an opportunity to win over big companies looking to transition from older systems and save money. “Companies experiencing aging systems pain are the ones most eager to make the switch,” Chris Vander Mey, senior product manager for Google Enterprise, told Vander May says Google Apps are more price-competitive but also offer more flexibility and less maintenance than on-premise solutions like Notes.

Nucleus Research analyst Rebecca Wettemann says some organizations will find Google’s e-mail in particular an attractive alternative to Notes. “For organizations looking at reducing fixed costs, Notes is an expensive email system to support,” Wettemann told “This may be a real opportunity for some companies to cut the costs of e-mail communications, particularly in Notes shops where developers have left, Google Apps starts to look more attractive.”

Google claims a total of 40 companies have switched from Notes to Google Apps and it hopes to accelerate the process by making the migration tool, which is a native, centrally-administered Notes application, freely available. Google said users of its Gmail e-mail will be able to continue to open Notes links in Lotus Notes as needed, during and after the migration.

IBM responds

IBM (NYSE: IBM) says it isn’t worried about competition from Google, though an executive did point out it plans to release a new Web mail client later this quarter that will be priced more competitively to Google.

“When you lead a marketplace, you’re going to have pretenders to the throne,” Sean Poulley, IBM’s vice president of cloud collaboration, told “The Lotus portfolio has never been stronger or more competitive than it is today.”

While IBM offers a migration tool to Microsoft Exchange users, Poulley said it has no plans for Google Apps because it doesn’t consider it a significant player. “We have tens of thousands of business customers and we believe our share has been growing,” he said.

Originally developed by Lotus before it was acquired by IBM in the early 1990s, Notes has evolved over the years but competitors regularly take shots at it for being behind the times.

Poulley chafes at those suggestions.

“Some analysts have said Lotus Notes offers what Microsoft is saying it will have in Office 2010 for Exchange and Lotus Notes offers what Google is promising for Wave in the future. I would suggest we’re delivering on the promise of others,” said Poulley.

And even though he’s responsible for IBM’s cloud collaboration efforts, Poulley emphasizes that on-premise solutions aren’t going away anytime soon.

“There’s a popular misconception that everything’s moving to the cloud,” he said. “Companies will go there if there’s economic benefit, but the idea that everything will float up to the cloud is fanciful. Our customers have billions of dollars invested in on-premise technology and they’re going to integrate and extend to the cloud, but not throw away their investment.”

Microsoft’s Software-Plus-Services vision also promotes the go slow approach to the cloud as an extension of more traditional on-premise solutions.

Ironically, Notes was created by Microsoft’s Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie, but the software giant has aggressively wooed Notes customers for years.

Earlier this month Microsoft awarded EMC (NYSE: EMC) with its “Notes Transition Partner of the Year” award for its NoteSwitch Complete solution designed to help companies transition from Notes to Microsoft software.

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