The new breed of 'deskless' email products designed to reach staff without email access may provide another opportunity for open source to penetrate new areas, according to analysts.
Hewlett Packard (HP) and Intel recently partnered with open source provider Sendmail to launch Workforce Mail running on Linux, while IBM Lotus has brought out Lotus Workplace Messaging.
Thsee low-cost email products require little or no user training and can be accessed via mobile devices or the internet. Although they are aimed at very low data volumes, they still provide antivirus, anti-spam and filtering according to corporate email policy.
"I can see there is a market for this," Mark Blowers, senior researcher at analyst Butler Group told vnunet.com.
"This also provides a potential for open source to gain a foothold in some companies, allowing them to move on with open source from there."
But he warned that vendors' claims that the packages could be used without training end-users were optimistic. "Some of these people are not used to doing anything with a computer screen," he said.
He added that he had not heard of Microsoft doing anything in this area but that he would be surprised if it let HP and IBM get a foothold without responding.
Sendmail chairman Greg Olson believes that his open source product has the edge at present. "It appears that Sendmail is one step ahead of Big Blue. Workforce Mail is Linux-based and this keeps costs down.
"Meanwhile, IBM is still working on its Linux-based solution planned for the second half of the year," he said.
At $8.50 per user, Sendmail Workforce Mail is slightly cheaper than Lotus Workplace Messaging's $29 for a three-year licence, but the latter is still under $1 per user per month.
IBM estimates that half the business email market has not previously been serviced because factory floor workers, retail clerks and some mobile workers have no email address.
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