A few weeks ago Lotus purchased cc:Mail to beef up its networking suite against Microsoft. I had mistakenly thought that Microsoft Mail ran on PCs and Macs (well it does, but only supports PC clients, much like CE's QuickMail), but it turns out that Microsoft Mail is not quite the complete solution. So although Lotus's move to buy cc:Mail wasn't quite as desperate as it seemed at the time, Microsoft has countered almost immediately. Despite a proposed close date of April 1st (April Fools Day in some parts of the world), it looks as though Microsoft will spend some $20 million for Consumers Software, makers of a PC mail package called Network Courier E-mail.
The positive aspect of this spending frenzy is that it will help legitimize email, at least at the LAN level (if not the individual level, which I'm more interested in). With both Lotus and Microsoft building email links into their products, the concept of email will become far more common. Microsoft has said that it will rename Network Courier E-mail to Microsoft Mail for the PC, or something that fits with Microsoft's relatively unimaginative (read: "business-oriented") naming scheme. Microsoft no doubt plans to integrate email into its PC programs, most likely in the same manner as it has with its Macintosh programs. This high level of integration will cause Lotus grief, since few of Lotus's products are particularly integrated with each other, either in operation or name.
The negative aspect of these purchases is that with Microsoft and Lotus controlling so much of the email market it will be harder for smaller companies to survive. The best hope for us innovation-oriented sorts is CE Software, which combines small size, the ability to move relatively quickly, good customer support, and a large installed base. CE has done interesting things in the past, and I suspect more will come from them in the future. QuickMail is also flexible enough, what with its numerous gateways, that current users are extremely unlikely to switch to one of the other packages. Let's hope that the users are the eventual winners of these email wars - after all you and I are all little bits of market share so we should get some say in this.
MacWEEK -- 12-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #10, pg. 82
COMMUNICATIONS WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, pg. 6
InfoWorld -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 8
PC WEEK -- 11-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #10, pg. 5
PC WEEK -- 04-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #9, pg. 1