Microsoft sold more units of its Exchange groupware product in the US than IBM did with its Lotus Notes rival last year, but trailed behind it in Western Europe, according to preliminary data from IDC.
Lotus is also still dominant in terms of its installed customers base.
Mark Levitt, analyst at IDC, said: "This is a big pie, and its growing. So just because Exchange is doing well, doesn?t mean the others are doing badly. But Lotus does have Exchange breathing down its neck. It will be interesting to see whether it will be able to maintain its lead in 1999."
IBM added some 13.4 million new users to its Notes? user base worldwide in 1998, while Exchange gained 11.8 million, and Novell Groupwise, 4.51 million.
However, while Exchange gained ground in the US, Lotus Notes still predominated in Western Europe, with 3.7 million new users adopting Notes compared to Exchange?s three million.
And Lotus is still the undisputed market leader with a total of 29.6 million users at the end of 1998. Microsoft Exchange now has 21.2 million, followed by Novell?s GroupWise at 14.2 million.
"The big value advantage of Lotus has traditionally been that it offers an environment in which [custom] applications can be developed and run. That is less true for Microsoft," Levitt explained.
His findings also show that the traditional groupware players continue to prosper, having warded off the challenge posed by newer, Intranet-based products.
"The reason is that vendors like Microsoft, Lotus and Novell have embraced the Internet and extended their proprietary products with Internet features and support for browsers," Levitt said.
But, he pointed out, potential rivals such as Netscape with its Suitespot server now appear to have dropped off the radar screen.
"Netscape has been focusing itself on the service provider market," he said, adding that the firm?s acquisition by America Online may further turn it away from the groupware market.
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