IBM on Monday plans to formally introduce a low-cost, Web-based version of its Lotus Notes e-mail system for businesses and other organizations.
LotusLive iNotes, as the offering is called, starts at $3 per month, per user on a yearly basis. The price for customers choosing to pay month-to-month is $3.75 per month. IBM is also offering a free, 30-day trial period for companies that want to test the service before committing to a contract.
All plans include access to Webmail, 1 GB of storage per user, mobile device support, built-in spam and antivirus protection, around the clock monitoring, and administration tools.
Users can also purchase an additional 100 GB of storage for an additional charge.
The offering brings IBM into competition with Google, whose own cloud-based offering, Gmail, has gained widespread popularity since its launch in 2004. It also steps up Big Blue's rivalry with Microsoft. Microsoft offers a number of Web-based e-mail products, including an online version of Outlook and the free, Windows Live Hotmail program.
Tech vendors are increasingly turning to the Internet as a delivery platform for their applications. Proponents of so-called cloud computing cite low-cost, ease of administration, and the fact that users can access their information from any Web-connected device.
Under tech chief Vivek Kundra, now the federal government's CIO, Washington, D.C.'s local government moved the bulk of its applications to the Web through Google Apps.
Cloud computing also has its detractors. Critics say it leaves organizations vulnerable to outages and other service interruptions. Gmail has had several, widely publicized crashes. Others complain about the potential for "lock-in" if it becomes difficult to move data from one vendor's service to another's.
IBM shares were up .90% to $118.96 in late morning trading Friday.
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