A few week ago I was called to a corporate meeting room to discuss IT strategies. I was invited as an independent consultant. Well, maybe not so independant as I was responsible for building their corporate IT strategies and solutions some 10-15 years ago, but at least I am not afraid to speak my mind.

As the meeting progress it become clear that this multi national corporation is about to re-evaluate their decision on which email system they should use. I assisted them in 1995 to switch from MS-Mail to Lotus Notes and now they are considering switching to Exchange/Outlook. I just wonder, WHY?

I am not questioning switching from Notes to Outlook, I am questioning why they still bother about email – and I told them so.

Email has today become a commodity, something we all expect to be there and to ”just work”. Today you can send and receive emails from any software to any other software and there are no problems initiating a meeting in Outlook and inviting attendees from other organisation that may use Apple Mail, Notes or even some Linux software. Email and calendaring just works!

So, why is this still a strategic corporate decision and why do Microsoft and IBM fight to their teeth to protect installations and win over new customers?

I think this is a fight no one will win. Email is becoming less important. I hardly ever email my friends any more, I send them a message on Facebook or a DM on Twitter. And this is even more true when it comes to our children. The way we work personally is what we will expect at work.

The corporation I was at had just introduced a web based communication solution to all their non-office employees in Sweden (some 10.000). These are employees that do not have a corporate email address nor the need to communicate with external parties, but they do need to communicate with each other and with managers. This sort of open forums with the option for private messages (as in Twitter or Facebook) will become more popular within organisations over the next years.

 Even if the number of emails routed is still increasing the actual usage is in decline.

So, why do IBM and Microsoft want control of our email? I think it is about old habits, they have fought this battle for so many years and they have now forgotten the reason or at least the reason is not really here any more – control of the desktop.

As we move more and more applications to the cloud* the desktop become less and less important. All solutions will communicate to each other over the Internet not requiring more than a web browser.

During the meeting I said that I do not care what email software they run in the future and I stated that I think the IT department should concentrate on delivering a robust email infrastructure rather than focusing on the client software. Email is a commodity just as electricity, I just want to plug in my favourite client and connect, or just browse my emails online.

* I define the cloud as any solution not requiring a locally installed propriety software.