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SuSE Targets Outlook with Openexchange

German Linux distributor SuSE Linux Thursday took a good stab at Microsoft Outlook users with the announcement of its Openexchange Server 4.1.

The company, which has U.S. offices in Oakland, Calif., says its server software combines SuSE's Linux Enterprise Server operating system with an e-mail server and groupware functionality to form a communications and groupware solution. According to SuSE, the new offering combines the best of all worlds: proven open source components; comprehensive software applications that offer reliable e-mail functions for the reception, distribution, and dispatch of e-mail; integrated Web mail clients; and smart, central appointment and address management, and efficient project management and task planning tools to streamline enterprise operations. A centrally controlled document management tool and group-based discussion forums to enhance the efficiency of project teams are also available.

SuSE says newest version also gives customers the choice of either migrate all of their communication services to Linux or continue to use installed groupware and messaging applications on their PCs. In addition to being Outlook compatible, SuSE Linux Openexchange Server works with all common browsers and synchronizes with Palms and PocketPCs.

"This release marks a watershed moment for Linux-based enterprise communications," SuSE CTO Juergen Geck said in a statement.

Priced at USD$1,240, Openexchange Server 4.1 will be available from SuSE's usual sales channels starting November 17. The software includes four CDs, detailed manuals, 30 days of installation support, and 12 months of system maintenance. The base license covers 10 groupware clients and an unlimited number of e-mail clients. The company also said its Maintenance Program can be extended up to five years.

SuSE estimates that SuSE Linux Openexchange Server has a low price-performance ratio largely attributable to its total cost of ownership, which is about 59 percent to 64 percent lower than that of an Exchange-based system. The primary reason for this is that SuSE's licensing model bases its calculation on the number of users that can be logged in simultaneously.

New to version 4.1 is a new WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) interface that SuSE says considerably speeds the flow of information between workstations and the server. For the first time, Outlook users can access calendar and contact data as well as tasks and documents stored in SuSE Linux Openexchange Server in real time. The server software even alerts Outlook users to appointment conflicts in real time. The company says its WebDAV interface also works with data sets from project management, ERP, and CRM applications.

The Openexchange Server also allows for virtual conferences including whiteboard: chat sessions via the application DyCE Instant Messenger from go4teams. The enhancement allows for instant messaging and other cooperation tools such as a shared text editor and joint brainstorming utilities. Through cooperation with Ferrari Office Master, the platform also has an integrated fax/SMS server that the entire group can use.

Other new features in v 4.1 include Public Folders, which keeps track of changes to team management of appointments, contacts, and tasks; and the ability to display daily calendars of multiple team members and resources next to each other.

"Openexchange provides businesses the stability, flexibility and security of open source plus outstanding groupware and messaging functionality, dramatically increasing the speed and efficiency of electronic communication," Geck said.