Zimbra Desktop

Yahoo owned Zimbra released the latest Zimbra Desktop today. At a glance it seems pretty nice. Essentially Yahoo Mail running on Mozilla Prism. It does seem somewhat of a large download for what it is. But maybe they still have some fat to trim. What is now Firefox was pretty hefty when it first split from Mozilla App Suite. It takes time. The installer is also very slow. I see it has jetty, so looks like there’s a Java backend.

It supports any POP3 or IMAP account similar to Thunderbird, with options for Gmail and Yahoo Plus in the wizard (for those who don’t know what type of email account those are).

My general impression is pretty neat, but the UI needs work. It often has scroll bars to view the contents of a window (just like a webpage). This is normal in a browser, but just feels strange in what is designed to be like a client side application. Even setup has this problem.

So far I still think Thunderbird and Apple Mail provide a better desktop experience. But Zimbra’s the new kid on the block, so I wouldn’t underestimate it. It is Open Source. It will be interesting to see who contributes to it.

If anyone else tried it, I’m curious to know what you thought of it.

Mozilla Messaging

As some may remember, Mozilla’s plan for Thunderbird was to form a new (then unnamed) company owned by the Foundation. Mozilla Messaging has now launched. I’m a fan of this approach as I think it allows for the most synergy between the projects, which are really more fraternal or conjoined twins than sister projects. It also allows for more dedicated resources and focus that Thunderbird wasn’t receiving before.

David Ascher has a great post on what’s to come. There are a few things I’d like to touch on though.

…Specifically, Thunderbird 3 will build on the great base that is Thunderbird 2 (and the work already performed in trunk by the current and past contributors), and add some key features, such as:

Presumably meaning it’s based on Mozilla 1.9, though I’m not 100% clear on this.

  • Integrated calendaring (building on the great work done by the Mozilla Calendar team and their Lightning add-on to Thunderbird),

Awesome. This is something that was missing from long ago. Though I wonder how far it will go without the server side being as available, robust and tested. Exchange compatibility would bring about the most corporate adoption, though that could be difficult to engineer. Google Calendar is supported via an addon. It’s still lacking in a few places, though rapidly improving. I believe it also works with Zimbra (can anyone confirm?), which is a good start.

  • better search facilities,

I’m curious what this entails. Search is always tricky. Google Desktop has proven a good solution for many who need better search with their email client.

  • easier configuration,

Cool. Enough said. I’ve had thoughts on that for a while.

  • and a set of other user interface improvements.

Hopefully this will result in some native skinning similar to what Firefox 3.0 is doing.

Address Book is also about 4 years overdue for an overhaul. Personally I think it should be replaced entirely and use a mozStorage backend. Perhaps even look at the possibility of some data sharing with services like Facebook, Plaxo and LinkedIn. Obviously being careful to avoid causing a Scoble by scraping data. For something like this data portability will be critical.

Personally I’d like to see some standard emerge where closed messaging services can essentially be interfaced like an IMAP account. So one could plug in their account info and interact with their account via any tool they choose. Obviously sending would be limited to within the provider’s walls. Contacts, data, etc. can be sync’d between both providing a seamless experience.

…Another strength is that we already have a complete web technology stack built into our mail client, and as a result, we can consider deep integration with both websites and web services which other solutions can only dream of.

Extensions are powerful. But this is really where the strength is. It’s a rather complete platform, and constantly expanding to keep up with the latest. It’s far from a hacked together parser that does a subset of html.

I suspect 3.0 will be somewhat of a quieter release. Change won’t come overnight. Those expecting a radical new approach to email by 3.0 will likely be disappointed. 4.0 is where things will become a more disruptive. I’d assume this will correspond with Mozilla2, which might work out to be an advantage.

As a final note, for any who don’t realize Scott MacGregor and David Bienvenu (no idea where his new blog will be) aren’t working for Mozilla Messaging but will still be involved with Thunderbird. They haven’t said too much on their plans yet.

That’s about all of my thoughts on the topic for now.

Thunderbird is dead, long live Thunderbird.
Email is dead, long live Email.

Open Source Corporate Email

According to ZDNet a Yankee Group report to be released next month found that of 1,000 IT managers and C-level executives, “23% of the survey respondents indicated they intend to migrate away from Exchange Server.” That’s a rather impressive number. Quite a few of those could go to Zimbra or Hula/NetMail, which could make great companions for Thunderbird, who buy the way is rapidly developing a calendar, which is starting to look pretty good.

It could be interesting to see what happens.