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2/12/2009
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Microsoft Exchange Alternative Unveiled By Open-Xchange

The open source company hopes its product will appeal to cash-strapped small and medium-size businesses that want to sidestep the costs associated with hosting Exchange or rely on POP mail.

Using the harsh economic climate to apply pressure to Microsoft's Exchange and SharePoint platforms, open source developer Open-Xchange is offering users and business partners a free business-class Webmail, calendaring, and infrastructure solution.

The promotional offer announced Thursday is aimed at end-user organizations with large numbers of e-mail users, such as academic institutions, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations, as well as Web-hosting providers, which require enterprise-class Webmail and the accompanying infrastructure pieces. The offer includes installation and configuration support for Open-Xchange software.

"For free, users and partners can establish a free e-mail platform. And through Open-Exchange, they can access a range of different capabilities like document sharing. We think Open-Xchange can serve as an aggregator of Web 2.0 class data," said Frank Hoberg, company founder and executive VP of sales for the German-based Open-Xchange.

But Open-Xchange isn't limiting the program's focus to just larger accounts and the partners that serve them. Hoberg believes it also will appeal to cash-strapped small and medium-size businesses that want to sidestep the costs associated with hosting Exchange or rely on POP mail.

Some analysts believe the program should appeal to both small and large users and business partners looking for alternatives to Microsoft's more expensive Exchange.

"I would think offering rich e-mail as an alternative to Exchange is a must-have for hosters from a competitive perspective, but should also create revenue streams," said Philbert Shih, research analyst, mass-market hosting, at Tier1 Research. "The collaboration and groupware capabilities of Open-Xchange is a good way to introduce midmarket rich e-mail platforms."

Besides document sharing, shared calendars, and address books, the software Open-Xchange is offering as part of the promotion also supports mobile devices, including the iPhone and BlackBerry.

Built as open source software, Open-Xchange is an affordable alternative to commercial e-mail/collaboration platforms like Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, providing an equivalent user experience with features like mobility support (iPhone, BlackBerry), document sharing, shared calendars and shared address books. The simple, intuitive software facilitates effective teamwork by improved communications.

The promotional offer is expected to extend through the end of this year, according to Hoberg.

Of course, there's more to open source net management apps than cost savings. InformationWeek has published an independent analysis of this topic. Download the report here (registration required).

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