Oracle has postponed the delivery of a major update to its Collaboration Suite until mid-2005, which will add instant messaging and voice-over-IP capabilities, and offer content management features.
Called Collaboration Suite 10g, the update will come as much as a year later than originally planned. Oracle first indicated it would ship the product in the first half of 2004, but later pushed that back to the second half of the year.
Oracle attributes the latest delay to its work on the content management functionality, which it said has attracted a lot of customer interest.
"We delayed it a little so we can have a robust content management offering as part of Collaboration Suite 10g," said Rob Koplowitz, a senior director of product marketing at Oracle. "What overwhelmed us was this immense demand for content management functionality."
This third release of Collaboration Suite is intended to make the Oracle product a stronger rival to Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus Domino, which dominate the corporate e-mail server market. Oracle sees its new content management functionality as its trump card in the battle for customers.
"With Sarbanes-Oxley and a lot of other regulation, folks really just want to get their arms around the explosion of data," Koplowitz said.
The content management functionality in Collaboration Suite 10g is designed to help manage unstructured data. The functionality is based on Oracle Files 10g, an update to the Oracle's file server product, and will include policy-based document management features such as automatic versioning, security and enforced attribution, Oracle said.
By adding content management capabilities to Collaboration Suite, Oracle is extending its competition with Microsoft to Windows SharePoint Services. This could be an interesting battle, because Oracle offers a centralised data repository, said Mike Gotta, a senior vice-president and principal analyst at Meta Group.
SharePoint allows users in an organisation to set up websites as collaborative spaces. With increasing regulatory requirements, unmanaged use of SharePoint can create concerns about document management and records management, Gotta said.
Of the other enhancements in Collaboration Suite, the instant messaging functionality is overdue. Industry insiders had expected instant messaging to be part of the second release of Collaboration Suite in June last year. Oracle's rivals Microsoft and IBM already sell instant messaging products.
In Collaboration Suite 10g, Oracle also offers a new web-based client, improved support for wireless devices and the ability to integrate collaboration into an enterprise portal, among other enhancements, the company said.
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.
The supplier 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, the company has said.
"Oracle is sort of like the dark horse, they have potential," Meta Group's Gotta said.
Oracle said last year that it sold Collaboration Suite to 500 customers in the 12-month period until 31 May 2003.
In the six months after that it added another 250 customers for a total of 750 as of 30 November 2003. The suppliers said it now has almost 2,300 Collaboration Suite customers.
Oracle's Koplowitz said it is too early to detail pricing and packaging for Collaboration Suite 10g.
Joris Evers writes for IDG News Service