Oracle continues to build collaboration

It’s hard for me to get excited about email.  Luckily for me, here at The 451 Group, we focus on emerging areas of the technology market or sectors where there is particular innovation or disruption.  And none of that much describes the email market.  I have looked at some of the vendors doing interesting things here (like Zimbra and Open-Xchange) and I had met once with PostPath before Cisco grabbed it a few weeks ago.  But even though I cover collaboration, I’m not down in the weeds with  “groupware” everyday.

So an announcement from Oracle that it has spent the last three years building a new collaboration suite, to replace Oracle Collaboration Suite (which hadn’t exactly taken the market by storm), doesn’t get me all revved up.  There’s lots of content out there on Beehive, from InformationWeek and CNET for example, so I won’t rehash all the details.  I know it’s about more than email and there’s a lot there that technically makes sense — its focus on security and compliance, scalability, integration with Outlook and the Zimbra web client, support for CalDAV and so on.

But it is not going to be an easy fight for Oracle in this market, to be sure, no matter how badly Oracle wants a piece of the collaboration market.  How many companies — others than OCS customers that are now stuck with a dead product — are going to move to a brand-new collab product?  I didn’t find any of the use cases Oracle described during their pre-brief all that compelling.

I wonder why Oracle, which obviously has no hesitation about buying into markets where it wants to be a major player, hasn’t acquired collab technology?  In the related content management market, Oracle made several attempts to market a database-driven content management system, mostly based on its ContentDB product and until it ultimately, purchased Stellent for $440m in 2006.  This strategy seems to be going well for Oracle (451 Group clients can read a more detailed write-up from a few months ago on Oracle’s progress in the content management market) and the company upped its investment by purchasing Captovation for document capture in January and Skywire Software for output (though this one was really more about insurance apps).

I understand that Oracle can’t go out and acquire the biggest competitor to Microsoft Exchange (that would IBM Lotus) and collab that ties closely to its apps is a high priority for Oracle, so building maybe made the most sense.  Still, there are other models for disruption – Yahoo! is looking at a different market segment with Zimbra and Cisco is planning its SaaS strategy with PostPath.  Those vendors both see Google Apps as the potential disrupter to the Exchange / SharePoint powerhouse and are looking to take a piece of that action before Google has it tied up.

I’m maybe not quite as a pessimistic as Matt Cain over at Gartner (his assessment doesn’t pull any punches).  I was part of a briefing with Matt once (back in his Meta Group days) when I was a product manager at Sun, on the integration between Sun’s portal server and collaboration products (email/calendar).  It was a half-baked integration with a lot of marketing fluff and Matt called us on it bluntly and accurately.  In saying Beehive is unlikely to be any more successful than [Oracle’s] past efforts, he does the same.