Oracle appears at last ready to enter the hot (and messy) collaboration-tools market. At its annual OracleWorld conference in San Francisco last month, the company released version 2 of its Collaboration Suite, adding real-time services for online meetings and instant messaging.
Built upon the 9i versions of its database and application server, Oracle's suite also includes calendaring and file-control capabilities from a variety of devices and formats (PDAs, Web, fax and voice). This comprehensive suite will have some stiff competition from Microsoft's Exchange Server and Lotus' Notes/Domino. And it will also have to do battle with products from smaller vendors, including eRoom Technology, Intraspect, Sendmail and Stalker Software.
To its credit, Oracle timed this well. Although its two major competitors have mature products, those offerings are both in transition. Lotus recently introduced version 6.0 of Domino, which uses some WebSphere components. In the future Lotus will begin using DB2 on the back end. Although we're sure IBM will work to make the transitions relatively painless, you can count on the switch giving customers a reason to investigate alternatives. It's also a good time for Oracle to begin competing with Microsoft Exchange--many shops are considering upgrades to Exchange 2000, and .Net means changes are in the works for integration and development.
Smaller, more focused vendors such as Stalker and Sendmail should be scared, too, as they will probably end up with another big kid to push them around on the playground or simply purchase them outright--Documentum's purchase of eRoom may be a sign of things to come. Even so, with so many boutique players in the collaboration space, there's always room for a product that does just one thing and does it well.