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Microsoft is gunning for IBM's Lotus Notes users in an effort to quadruple the size of its ISV partner community around the Office desktop productivity suite.

The company will launch a sales and marketing campaign in September that encourages 100m Notes customers to build their future collaborative software applications and services on Office and SharePoint Portal Server.

Microsoft believes it can exploit what it perceives to be uncertainty and concern among users over the future of their platform caused by IBM's newer Workplace strategy.

By targeting Lotus Notes users, Microsoft believes it can create new business opportunities for ISVs and services companies, thereby growing its network of certified Office partners from 1,600 to around 6,000. Microsoft provided the numbers in an attempt to clarify comments made earlier at the Worldwide partner conference around plans to expand its partner ecosystem by a factor of four.

"We are hearing that with Workplace technology there has been a decent amount of concern from Lotus Notes customers about what the future holds for them," Microsoft corporate vice president for the information worker product management group Chris Capossela told The Register on Friday.

One spot where Microsoft hopes to lure Notes customers and potential partners is in the area of increasingly richer search technology. Capossela said search would be one of the key developments in Office 12, due in the second half of 2006.

Pre-empting Office 12, IBM in May took steps to beef-up search capabilities in Notes working with Google to produce Google Desktop Search for Enterprise. The software searches Notes in addition to Office, AOL and Internet Explorer files.

Microsoft’s campaign represents the company's latest attempt to unseat Notes as companies' choice of corporate messaging and collaborative backbone. Microsoft spent much of the 1990s launching code migration wizards to move users of Lotus Development's Notes software to its, then, new Exchange Server and Outlook.

Capossela said things are different this time around, though, as Microsoft is preaching a message of co-existence with Notes instead of rip and replace.

"We will be getting customers to build [new applications and services] using SharePoint rather than Lotus Notes or Workplace and keep Lotus Notes in maintenance mode." Capossela said.

Things certainly will be different this time for more reasons than one: in a twist of irony, or higher pay packages, Ray Ozzie, the man credited with creating Notes, is now working for Microsoft to help enhance Microsoft Office's peer-to-peer and collaborative capabilities, after Microsoft bought Ozzie's Groove Networks earlier this year.®

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Microsoft looks to partners to force Office upgrades
IBM and Google find each other in desktop search
IBM brings Instant Messaging to Lotus Notes
IBM fills out Lotus Workplace with Aptrix
IBM throws weight behind server-managed clients
IBM bangs drum for client middleware

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