Microsoft attempts to woo GroupWise customers

Microsoft Canada Co. is taking a run at Novell Inc. with a new customer-migration campaign. Microsoft’s aim: make it cheaper for companies to move from Novell GroupWise and from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange Server 2003. But one industry analyst says Microsoft’s plan goes well beyond Novell.

This initiative, dubbed Exchange Power Program, isn’t offered directly from Microsoft, but through its partners such as Compugen Inc. Under the program Microsoft is giving its partners subsidies — between $950 and $5,000 — to provide some professional services to Exchange 5.5 and GroupWise customers for free.

The services are offered through two software tools, HealthCheck Assessment and Baseline Information System (BIS), designed to help companies make technology deployment decisions.

he HealthCheck Assessment tool helps customers analyze their current messaging structure and determine where they could derive cost savings. The BIS Total Cost of Ownership helps customers build a business case for migration, such as calculating ROI, said Hilary Wittmann, Exchange server product manager at Microsoft Canada in Mississauga, Ont. Before the Exchange Power Program customers would have been required to pay for these services, which included software licences for BIS and HealthCheck.

To help customers who decide to migrate, Microsoft — through its partners — also plans to help them learn all the bells and whistles associated with Exchange 2003. Each customer who migrates to Exchange 2003 will get a training voucher to attend a course for the platform. It’s worth about $2,500 and admits one.

Since the launch of the Exchange Power Program on March 30, about 30 Canadian partners have signed up, Wittmann said. Microsoft has thousands of partners across the country.

Warren Shiau, an independent software analyst based in Toronto, said this strategy is simply Microsoft’s way of trying to eliminate any obstacles a user might have when migrating from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003, such as money or lack of in-house skills with the platform.

However, targeting Novell GroupWise users is part of a broader Microsoft strategy to get customers away from Linux, Shiau said.

“Novell GroupWise is not only a target install base for Microsoft but Novell is a strategic target in that people who are with Novell, or who plan to stay with Novell, are eventually moving towards Linux,” he said.

A few years ago, when Novell was isolated from the rest of the industry with its NetWare platform, it wasn’t a threat to Microsoft. “But now that Novell is one of the lynchpins of the Linux movement, it becomes a strategic issue to get Novell users away from Novell,” Shiau added.

However, Microsoft will have a difficult time wooing GroupWise users, because customers who have stayed with Novell tend to be happy, he said. It would have been easier for Microsoft to convince them to switch platforms if the firm had targeted them several years earlier.

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