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Zippy – a Lotus Notes for the rest of us?

Groupware on a stick

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Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

A fresh approach to workgroup collaboration and file sharing will emerge this week with the launch of Zippy. It's a hosted service that offers file sharing, instant messaging and PIM functionality for a fixed fee per user per month.

Zippy was founded by John Carosella, formerly of Ipsilon and Nokia, who devised the CheckPoint VPN appliance. The software has been under development for a couple of years, and in live trials for several months.

The appeal is obvious: it provides much of the functionality of Notes or Exchange without the need for an IT administrator. It doesn't provide the sophisticated replication of Notes, but it does allow offline work and perform atomic backups. So for workgroups measured in the dozens, it's Transactions are protected by 128-bit SSL encryption. Zippy has its own built-in IM but is building gateways to Yahoo! and AOL's messaging.

Zippy has obvious appeal for warez kids, but the start-up is targeting business rather than consumers with the first releases.

"Early adopters are a variety of departments at larger companies, small to medium businesses with little or no IT dept, and individual business professionals," Zippy's Howard Fried told us.

Clocking in at a 20MB download , the Zippy client can't be described as "thin". But the company has a novel idea which could be the most interesting aspect of the software.

Fat client on a stick

Zippy plans to ship a version of the client on a removable USB flash drive called "ZippyStick". With keyfob-sized devices capable holding 64MB now retailing under $40, this is a fairly inexpensive way of keeping your most important work at hand. The Zippy client is self-contained, and won't much with your Registry files.

The first cut is Windows only. Fried says that Zippy will decide whether to port to other platforms after gauging customer feedback, but said the most likely order would be a web-only version, one for Mac OS X and then possibly a Linux/UNIX version.

Right now Zippy is welcoming suggestions on open sourcing portions of the software. Publishing interfaces could give Zippy the option of either focusing on the hosting side or the software development side, and letting third parties host Zippy servers. Reasonably enough, having devoted so much time to getting off the ground, it wants to do both. The fee is $29.95 per user per month.

After seeing a sneak preview in May, we're impressed with the team's enthusiasm, and after seeing so many well-intentioned teamware products turn into bloated, labor-intensive monstrosities, this a refreshing approach. We'll have a hands-on with Zippy shortly.

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