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9/30/2009
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Zimbra Adds Social Networking Features

Yahoo's Zimbra unit continues to enhance its open source alternative to Microsoft Exchange and IBM LotusNotes.

Zimbra, an enterprise e-mail and end user application unit of Yahoo, has announced the launch of Zimbra Collaboration Suite 6.0, with expanded social networking features.

Zimbra was acquired by Yahoo in September 2007 for $350 million as the producer of an open source e-mail system for the enterprise. Zimbra now serves 50 million mailboxes at 100,000 organizations, including a presence at many colleges and universities. As such, it's one of the few alternatives to Microsoft Exchange and IBM's LotusNotes, although Zimbra's mailboxes would be dwarfed by Exchange's numbers.

As open source code, Zimbra applications continue to grow in downloads and usage and, despite reports that Yahoo has thought about selling the Zimbra unit, it continues to upgrade its product suite. Zimbra spokesmen claim its on-premises, subscription versions of the applications cost one-third to one-half their commercially licensed counterparts.

Zimbra Collaboration Suite 6.0 includes the Zimbra stalwart applications of e-mail, calendar, and documents as well as spreadsheet and presentations, said Jim Morrisroe, Yahoo VP and Zimbra general manager. Zimbra apps are Ajax based and work in the Web browser. They work offline as well as online, through a Zimbra client. And they work on a variety of devices. The Zimbra Mobile API can deliver a Zimbra server presentation to a BlackBerry, iPhone, or Windows Mobile phone.

The Zimbra Collaboration Suite was launched in 2006 as ZCS 4.0, with a version number to match the stage of the applications. Subsequent versions have integrated more features of the applications. ZCS 6.0 allows users to customize applications based on the Zimlet functionality built into the suite, Morrisroe said in an interview. A Zimlet is an Ajax mechanism that makes the content in one application importable and useable by another.

Zimbra has created Zimlet modules that let a Zimbra user to click on an e-mail sender, carry the name to a phone Zimlet (provided by third party BroadSoft), and implement a call over a PC to the sender via Skype or other voice-over-IP provider. An address in an e-mail message can be moved into a Yahoo Maps Zimlet, and a map illustrating the address will be created. Contacts in an e-mail can be loaded into the contacts application through a Collector Zimlet. The goal seems to be to make many forms of work connected with e-mail proceed simpler and faster.

The Collaboration Suite gets enhanced social networking through a social media Zimlet, said Morrisroe. Tweets may be posted to Twitter from the ZCS inbox. Likewise, updates to Facebook and Digg may be launched from the inbox through the Zimlet.

The e-mail system itself offers a three-paned view, allowing the user to view and/or compose more than one message at a time, while also reading a calendar pane. Mail users can get "read receipts" or notifications that e-mail they have sent has been read. And e-mail messages can now receive an automatic spell check before being sent.

The ZCS calendar has been given a "fish-eye" view or zoom-in feature that lets the user start big and zero in on the part of the calendar he really wants to look at.

The number of Zimlets and uses of them is expected to proliferate since Zimbra opened the Zimlet mashup API to third parties. ZCS customers can build out their own mash-ups, tapping favorite Web services that are activated by their own Ajax widget or Zimlet.


bMighty has published a report on the secrets of e-mail management. Download the report here. Also, visit bMighty's IT Management How-To Center here.

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