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E-Mail/Collaboration Software: Microsoft

In e-mail and collaboration software, Microsoft claimed the Channel Champions title with its amalgam of Exchange Server and Sharepoint technologies.

The result was that Microsoft wound up edging out IBM by only two-tenths of a point in average channel-program satisfaction and faced a close race overall.

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In e-mail and collaboration software, Microsoft claimed the Channel Champions title with its amalgam of Exchange Server and Sharepoint technologies.

The race was close, with Microsoft pulling an overall solution provider satisfaction rating of 75.5 and coming in four-tenths of a point ahead of runner-up IBM (75.1) and 2 points ahead of Novell (73.5).

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Solution providers cited Microsoft’s integration of e-mail into the larger computing picture as one of its strongest technical assets, rating it 4.7 points ahead of IBM on this criterion. Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail client, which has become the de facto front end to many e-mail accounts, may have helped.

“Integration with Office is the reason Microsoft wins here,” said George Brown, president of Database Solutions, a Cherry Hill, N.J.-based solution provider. Users feel more comfortable staying within one interface for all their work and Outlook enables this, Brown and other solution providers said.

In other technical areas, Microsoft also scored well ahead of its rivals in management features and the quality of its workflow and document management tools. Not surprisingly, though, Microsoft got hammered on the security criterion, where it trailed Novell by 9.6 points. Microsoft’s products have been plagued by security problems, and the company has responded with patches and upgrades, which pose their own problems.

Despite the security issues, Microsoft still came out on top in overall technical satisfaction. Solution providers said Microsoft resolved earlier problems with Exchange Server so that its messaging technology is now extremely reliable.

Others said Microsoft’s decision to refocus Exchange as a mail-only platform as opposed to an overall groupware infrastructure was paying off.

“Exchange is pure messaging and they’ve relentlessly improved it,” said Bob Shear, president of Greystone Solutions, a Woburn, Mass.-based Microsoft Gold Partner. “The fact that it is limited and focused has helped in its continuing success against [Lotus] Notes.”

Microsoft also did well across the board on channel criteria, earning high marks in eight out of 10 areas. Its strongest showing was a 2.9-point lead over IBM on the criterion of keeping solution providers informed of changes. But, again, solution providers marked Microsoft down in two areas: sales margins and licensing policies.

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