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Yahoo! spruces open source Exchange rival

Zimbra 6.0 shrugs off sale talk

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Amidst rumors that Yahoo! is looking to sell the company, Zimbra has released a new version of its Exchange-battling open source email and collaboration platform.

Available beginning today, version 6.0 of the Zimbra Collaboration Suite adds several administrator and mobile tools as well as countless tweaks to the client interface. This includes client-side changes meant to facilitate the addition of Zimlets, those community-created mini-apps that hook into outside web services. With one Zimlet, for instance, you can instantly open a Yahoo! map when a street address turns up in your inbox.

"We want to continue to raise the bar of what you can do with Zimlets and lower the bar in terms of the programming expertise you need to have to build the integration points," Zimbra general manager Jim Morrisroe tells The Reg. Users can download these mini-apps from a public repository or build their own.

The Zimbra Collaboration Suite installs as an Exchange-like in-house server, but it's also available as a hosted service from third-party partners. You can then tap the server from an AJAX-based browser client, a downloadable Zimbra Desktop client, various mobile clients, or third-party clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, or Apple clients. According to Zimbra, the platform is now used by over 100,000 organizations across the globe, boasting more than 50 million paid mailboxes.

You can also opt for the free open-source version of the server, available under the Yahoo! Public License, née the Zimbra Public License. The license requires a Zimbra logo on the web client, and according to Morrisroe, about five per cent of the tools available with the paid version of the product are missing from the open source incarnation. This includes Zimbra's integrated back-up tool and the ability to sync with mobile and third-party clients.

Named for a nonsensical Talking Heads song, Zimbra was acquired by Yahoo! in September of 2007 for around $350m. The company now operates from offices on Yahoo!'s campus in Sunnyvale, California, and its technology underpins Yahoo!'s web-based Mail and Calendar services. But according to a recent report from All Things Digital, the web/advertising giant is shopping the outfit to potential buyers, as CEO Carol Bartz looks to streamline her operations.

Morrisroe declined to address the rumors, but he emphasized the "tight collaboration" between his engineering team and the teams behind the consumer-focused Yahoo! Mail and Calendar.

In all, Zimbra's 6.0 release includes roughly 50 new server and client tools, including everything from an Outlook-like three-pane interface that lets you compose messages in separate tabs to an admin tool for remotely wiping sensitive info from Zimbra mobile clients. Morrisroe describes many of these as "blocking and tackling" additions, small changes such the addition of a mandatory spell checker or the ability to print multiple messages. You can browse a complete list here (PDF). ®

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