In a bid to go head-to-head with Microsoft in the collaborative applications market, Oracle has rolled out its own software suite that it says offers integrated voice access and voicemail.

According to the company, the collaboration suite includes calendar, real-time conferencing capabilities,

e-mail, file system support, voicemail and workflow, which is centralized and protected in a database with universal access through Microsoft Outlook, any Web browser, voice, wireless devices and fax.

The product also offers Ultra search capabilities, which lets users search for any document, e-mail, voicemail or other communication using dates, words or phrases, the company adds.

The game plan is to challenge the high price of Microsoft’s product line and offer customers beefier productivity at a lower price, says Dayle Shweiger, director of channel alliances, Oracle Canada

David Ferris, president of San Francisco, Calif.-based Ferris Research agrees, saying the software suite reduces the number of e-mail servers needed to run most e-mail. He told CDN while it “could be all smoke and mirrors,” given the fact that the product hasn’t yet hit the street, it does appear to be easier and cheaper to run, as well as more scalable and far more programmable than Outlook.

For partners, the collaboration software launch opens up new market opportunities, says Shweiger, indicating the company is entering new territory (after four years of research and the recent acquisition of Montreal-based Steltor) by offering integrated collaborative functionality all in one package.

“This is a new area for us to get into, and to get into it with the channel is going to open up some new market opportunities, some opportunities to expand skill sets, and some opportunities to go into existing customers with new product and services.”

She says an attractive opportunity for resellers involves peddling to customers using Exchange. “Let’s face it, there’s some issues around larger implementations,” she says, indicating common Microsoft pain points include security, reliability, integration, universal search and access through any device.

“The Oracle solution provides a much stronger infrastructure for the collaboration suite because it’s based on the Oracle database, which offers scalability, availability and manageability,” she says. “And those are some of the things that the larger customers of Exchange are struggling with today.”

The collaboration software suite is slated for release at the end of the month, Shweiger says, indicating the official channel strategy will also be announced at that time.

In the meantime, the company is trawling for partners who are interested in expanding their Oracle practice and who have experience in the collaboration arena.

“We’re looking at all of our various partner types (including VARS, ISVs or SIs) and how we can engage with them,” she says. “There’s definitely a channel play here, and we want to leverage the channel with this product. We’re looking right now at who could be our early adopters.”

Oracle is also setting its sights on the mid-market space and considering an outsourcing approach. “Definitely there’s ROI for the larger customers with things like server consolidation and reduced cost. But there’s also a play in the smaller market, where the better ROI might come from an outsourcing environment.

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