Lotus plans to kick off its Next Gen software strategy in May with the release of Workplace Messaging, a J2EE-based e-mail solution priced for the SMB market.
Last week, executives from IBM's Lotus Software Group said the e-mail code would be finished within 30 days and officially launched next month as the first in a series of Workplace-branded components. Lotus plans to offer Workplace Messaging, Calendaring and Collaboration components that can be accessed and run from the IBM WebSphere Portal as on-demand services.
Also in the works is Workplace Designer, a new application development environment for Lotus Workplace components, and a J2EE-based workflow engine code-named "Dragonfly." The engine is designed for use across IBM Software and Lotus products, company executives said.
IBM/Lotus declined to specify pricing. However, Workplace Messaging is slated to be priced at less than $10 per user, per month, executives said.
Vendors are investing in less-complex, lower-cost, Web-based e-mail solutions targeted at the SMB market. Oracle offers e-mail in its Collaboration suite and plans an upgrade later this year.
Novell offers standards-based NetMail and NetMail XE for small businesses. And ASP BlueTie plans to launch version 4.0 of its Web-based e-mail services for SMBs, priced at $4 to $5 per month. Several channel sources said Microsoft also is preparing a low-end e-mail offering to counter Lotus' move, but Microsoft denies it's developing a small-business edition of its upcoming Exchange 2003 or preparing a lower-cost offering to compete with Workplace Messaging.
Some solution providers say the ASP e-mail model is the most affordable option for SMBs. But others say Web-based, lower-priced e-mail for in-house use makes sense for that market.
"Many people are not comfortable with the idea of having their organization's internal and confidential information out on someone else's server," said Ted
Dinsmore, president of Conchango, a New York-based Microsoft solution provider. "Therefore, an SMB version from IBM or from Microsoft makes logical sense."