Microsoft Outlook made headlines earlier this month when, at COMDEX, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison demonstrated Oracle's new database-driven email server, proclaiming that it makes Outlook "unbreakable" by providing a more reliable mail server that can handle more users than Microsoft Exchange can. Ellison's target was Exchange, not the Outlook client: His point was that companies should keep using Outlook and migrate their mail servers to Oracle.

Oddly, the email program that Ellison used for his demonstration wasn't Outlook at all, but Outlook Express. He's not the only one to miss the major distinctions between the two, but if he thinks that corporations that use Exchange Server are using Outlook Express as their client, then he doesn't understand why so many people say they "live in Outlook."

I see this question all the time in the newsgroups: "I already have Outlook Express—it's free as part of Internet Explorer (IE)—so why do I need Microsoft Outlook?" The answer is that if you need just an email program, Outlook Express will do. If, however, you need to track appointments, maintain a to-do list, or perform mail merges in Word, Outlook Express won't suffice.

In addition, Outlook Express can't handle the voting-button messages I discussed last week, request meetings with colleagues, or perform other collaboration chores. In other words, if Oracle's server is just for email—and judging from the demo, it appears to be simply an IMAP server with a database back end—then it won't satisfy the needs of Outlook users and won't be a viable replacement for Exchange.

Meanwhile, Samsung has announced a deal with Hewlett-Packard that will breathe new life into HP's OpenMail server. HP had previously announced that it would take no new orders for OpenMail and would provide support only to current support customers until 2006. Samsung has now licensed the OpenMail code and plans to build a new product called Samsung Contact on the OpenMail 7.0 platform. This deal is interesting because, unlike the Oracle email server, OpenMail provides a collaboration platform with strong support for Outlook calendar and other special items. In fact, OpenMail is the only server besides Exchange that lets you administer the Outlook Email Security Update features.

Samsung has used OpenMail internally for 5 years. The company plans to ship the first version of Samsung Contact in the first quarter of 2002, with a second version coming later in the year to add telephone access to email, among other features. Samsung's ultimate plan is to consolidate email, voice, and fax access for both PC and mobile devices. Contact will run on HP-UX, AIX, Solaris, Red Hat Linux, and perhaps eventually Windows.

Samsung says it will continue to support Microsoft Outlook up to the level of support included in HP OpenMail 7.0, while at the same time developing its own Web and Windows clients for Contact for release next year.