Microsoft Exchange customers are happier than Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise users.
That's the case according to a messaging and collaboration product survey of 124 IT shops, conducted by Creative Networks, a California, research firm. In the survey, which divided results into eight categories, users ranked Exchange first or tied for first in all but one area.
While reported levels of satisfaction for all three products were relatively high and similar across several key categories, Notes lagged noticeably in areas recognised as its trouble spots: ease of use, service and support.
The high grades for Exchange show that Microsoft has delivered on what it promised when the product was launched in the spring of 1996, according to the survey's author.
"Microsoft really focused on developing a messaging system that is pretty easy to install and deploy," says Nina Burns, president of Creative Networks. "That's what people are experiencing."
Growing pains may yet emerge, Burns adds, as those surveyed had an average of only eight months experience with Exchange.
"We don't know what is going to happen after [Exchange usage] expands," she says.
As might be expected, Rob Shurtleff, lead product manager for Exchange, is heartened by its across-the-board strength in this survey. He sees the results as a harbinger of market battles to come.
"The product is now moving downstream from the big companies that looked at it for a long time into a much broader reach of medium companies," Shurtleff says. "That's going to be the next battleground."
A Lotus official, while citing no fault with the survey's methodology, suggests the results fail to reflect the fact that Notes is designed to do more than its competitors or that its wider deployment invites closer scrutiny.
"Our average installation is far larger than the average installation of Exchange particularly and has been there a lot longer," says Arthur Fontaine, Internet marketing manager at Lotus. "That lets [customers] experience a lot more warts."
Nevertheless, Fontaine is able to find bright spots in the survey.
"A couple of things we felt pretty good about were that we scored highest on security, reliability and quality.".
Burns says the challenges for Lotus are clear.
"Lotus does need to take note and beef up their services and support environment, which they are already doing," she says. "Also, they need to make their mail and messaging systems in Notes simpler to deploy and manage."
As for Novell and GroupWise, company officials have been pleased to see their product come out on top in several key performance categories. They also argue that since most of the GroupWise customers surveyed were using Version 4.1, they had yet to be exposed to upgrades that have added platform support, Internet hooks and development tools.
"In light of that, we did well," says Ed McGarr, vice president of marketing for the Novell Applications Division.