Microsoft is planning to unveil a raft of new analytical and data transfer tools aimed at luring customers away from IBM's rival Lotus Notes email software.
Both Microsoft and IBM are vying for supremacy in the $2.8 billion (£1.6 billion) corporate messaging market which includes collaboration tools such as email, Web publishing, electronic calendars and project management systems.
Each company wants to play a leading role in defining how Web services will workn together in the future. Analysts agree that Microsoft has captured the momentum in the more than decade-old battle between Exchanges and Lotus Notes to win the lion's share of the corporate email market.
But IBM, which has a major facility at Warwick, is seeking to redefine the competition by investing in a new set of Webbased collaboration tools known as IBM Workplace in an attempt to recapture momentum among corporate users switching to Microsoft.
To encourage customers to switch from their existing Lotus applications to Microsoft's platform, Microsoft said it would offer a tool to allow potential customers to identify and organise its most-used shared software.
In addition to 30 existing application templates, Micro-soft also plans to offer three new ones in its Windows SharePoint Services that are similar to popular applications in Lotus.
Gartner analyst Matt Cain said Microsoft has been gaining market share over the last few years by a few percentage points every year and he expects that trend to continue, given Microsoft's dominant position on the PC desktop.
"Microsoft could have been a lot more aggressive years ago. It's taken quite some time for the company as a whole to recognise it has a significant opportunity here," said Cain.
A July report by Radicati Group estimated that Microsoft Exchange, the server software behind Microsoft Outlook, was on track to have 126 million users in 2005 compared with IBM's Domino, the server software underlying Notes, which was expected to have 88 million customers.
In market share terms, Microsoft had 32 per cent of the 389 million users of email and collaboration software, while IBM had about 24 per cent, Radicati estimated.
By 2009, Radicati expects that the number of Microsoft Exchange users will rise to 200 million users, or 37 per cent of the corporate market.
IBM Domino/Notes users will sink to 68 million, or 13 per cent of the market, while IBM's new Workplace software will grow to 35 million users, or 6.5 per cent of the market, meaning IBM's total share will amount to around 20 per cent of the global market.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is committing itself to developing new versions of its dominant Office package for both PowerPC and new Intel-based Mac computers.
The move follows the announcement of a formal five-year agreement at the recent Macworld Conference & Expo.
"Microsoft has a history of successful collaboration with Apple, and this agreement underscores our commitment to the Mac platform," said Tom Gibbons, vice-president of the Consumer Productivity eXperiences Business at Microsoft.
"We've had many years of success with Office for Mac, and this formal commitment confirms that we're in the Mac business for the long haul."
Philip Schiller, senior vice-president of worldwide prod-uct marketing at Apple, added: "Microsoft's Mac Business Unit continues to be a great Mac developer, bringing innovative and compatible versions of Microsoft Office to Mac customers.
"The Mac platform has never been stronger, and we're pleased that Microsoft is committed to delivering great Mac products for many years to come."