Oracle is to deliver a major update to its Collaboration Suite before the end of this year, adding instant messaging capabilities, improving integration with enterprise applications and enhancing other features.
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This third release of Collaboration Suite is intended to make the Oracle product a stronger rival to Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino, which dominate the corporate e-mail server market.
Oracle had indicated earlier that the latest version of Collaboration Suite would appear in the first half of 2004.
The instant messaging functionality is also overdue. Industry insiders had expected instant messaging to be part of the second release of Collaboration Suite last June. Both Microsoft and IBM already sell instant messaging products.
Oracle stressed its commitment to the Collaboration Suite. The company has hired Terry Olkin, cofounder and former chief technology officer of secure messaging supplier Secure Data in Motion, also known as Sigaba.
"The challenge is bringing the different pieces of Collaboration Suite together into an integrated and easier to use product," Olkin said.
Another task is raising the profile of Collaboration Suite. "Clearly, it is not well known in the market. It is not in the same breath as Exchange or Notes."
Oracle pitches Collaboration Suite as a cheaper and more secure alternative for corporate e-mail, coupled with the fact that it works with many user interfaces and offers certain benefits because it is integrated with a common database. These benefits include complying with regulations that require retention of all kinds of electronic communications.
But Collaboration Suite is still a fledgling product, so it should not be surprising if it is not completely at par with offerings from Microsoft and IBM.
"What we need to do is come out with a high quality, almost next-generation communications product. There has to be that wow factor that says: hey we need to look at Oracle stuff because they are thinking ahead, they are thinking outside of the box, they're not just adding yet another feature," Olkin said.
Collaboration Suite Release 3 should reflect that thinking. It will deliver a lot more than just tagging on instant messaging capability to the existing product, said Rob Koplowitz, a senior director of product marketing at Oracle.
Aside from instant messaging, Oracle will deliver enhanced features to rival Microsoft's Windows SharePoint Services group collaboration websites as well as improved integration with Oracle's enterprise application products, he added.
Oracle launched its offensive against Microsoft and IBM in September 2002 with the first release of Collaboration Suite. The product was updated in June 2003 to include web conferencing.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service