Oracle is squarely targeting customers of Microsoft’s corporate e-mail software, or Exchange server, with the latest version of its collaboration suite, a package of software that gives computer users one mailbox for e-mail, voice mail, faxes and appointments. Employees can reach those messages and appointments via telephone, Web browser or Microsoft’s Outlook program. The software also offers new tools that help employees to work with one another.
With its new collaboration software, Oracle hopes to siphon off Microsoft’s existing customers. It is especially targeting those who are moving to the company’s latest Exchange server or who might be upset with Microsoft’s new pricing policy, which encourages companies to sign up for automatic software upgrades. Oracle also is looking for new ways to generate revenue because its main database and application businesses have seen steep declines over the last year.
Oracle’s pitch comes as companies are trying to reduce expenses, especially by consolidating the number of computers and servers they manage and maintain, says Mark Levitt, a vice president at market research firm International Data Corp. E-mail, Oracle argues, has become so important that it needs to be supported by software that is more durable than the kind that Microsoft offers currently through its Exchange server. Customers can keep using Microsoft Outlook on their desktop computers and can use Oracle software on their server computers, Oracle says.
“E-mail is one of the most critical applications your enterprise owns,” said Oracle Chief Financial Officer Jeff Henley. “That’s our space. We think this is more of our market than Microsoft’s.” Oracle says the new suite could cost as little as $60 a user.
Oracle’s software does more than support e-mail. This version of the collaboration suite emphasizes real-time capabilities such as allowing employees in different locations using different computers to draw on and view the same electronic “white board” simultaneously. The software also lets office workers use online tools like the electronic white board while connecting employees via conference call. And Oracle is offering its collaboration software as a hosted service, so customers have the option of letting Oracle manage and maintain the software. That lets Oracle challenge Microsoft in the market for small and midsize businesses, which is considered Microsoft’s home turf.