Microsoft has taken its annual dig at IBM/Lotus with a set of free tools for February that will help people migrate from Notes/Domino to its software.

Every year uses the eve of IBM's annual Lotusphere customer conference to push its own collaboration wares. Lotusphere started yesterday in Florida and will run through to Thursday.

The two giants have been locked in a battle for years over email, instant messaging, conferencing, and now real-time communications tools such as voice and video .

This year, Microsoft is releasing a trio of tools and templates designed to ease switching to its unified communications platform, which Microsoft has upgraded with the recently released Exchange 2007 and forthcoming upgrades to SharePoint Server 2007 and Office Communications Server 2007.

"This is what, the fifth or sixth time that Microsoft has built a magic box to migrate from Notes," said Ed Brill, a business unit executive for worldwide sales at IBM/Louts. "What makes this one any more likely to succeed?"

The tools are in fact very similar to those released in past years but with different names. "We have had a set of disjointed tools in the past," said Elisa Graceffo, group product manager for collaboration and portals at Microsoft. "What we have really done is unified them into a single suite with a common look and feel and enhanced the functionality."

Transporter helps walk customers from the planning stage through execution of messaging and directory migration. It includes co-existence tools to run Domino and Exchange side-by-side and migration tools for directories, mailboxes and applications.

Users can migrate accounts and mailboxes separately and move access-control lists during application migration. In addition, Microsoft's new PowerShell tool can be used to script the entire migration.

Transporter also analyzes Notes application infrastructure, helps in designing the best plan for migrating those applications and moves data from template-based Notes applications to Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, a sharing application native to the Windows server operating system.

Microsoft plans to make the tools and templates available for free from its website in the next 30 days.