IBM unveils a Web-based e-mail competitor

IBM Corp. has released its own version of Internet-based email for businesses, in a move designed to compete with an increasingly popular service from Google Inc.

IBM said its LotusLive iNotes service includes e-mail, calendar and contact management, and is ideal for employees that don’t “require all the capabilities of full-featured e-mail and collaboration software, or for employees that currently have no access to company e-mail.”

“It’s going to be very competitive both functionally and from an economic point of view,” said IBM vice president of online collaboration services Sean Poulley.

Providing e-mail and other tools hosted online has been part of Google’s expanded focus on providing services to businesses and government agencies.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company originally built its business around offering search and other freely-available services to consumers, but in more recent years began offering businesses and agencies Google Apps, which includes email, word processing and other tools for a subscription fee.

Microsoft recently began previewing its own Internet-based set of software tools, Office Web Apps, though it doesn’t include a connected e-mail service.

More broadly, computing in general has increasingly shifted to a model that has data and tools stored and accessed online, rather than locally in a computer or disk.

“There’s plenty of market data that says this will expand, and we’re certainly seeing it in our pipeline of opportunities,” Poulley said.

IBM’s Internet-based e-mail service is priced at what Poulley called “a pretty aggressive starting point,” as low as $3 per user per month.

Google prices its Google Apps service at $50 per user per year.

Google has touted the use of the technology by companies including Genentech Inc. and Inc.

(c) 2009, Inc. Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.