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Yahoo Moves Forward With Zimbra 5.0 Suite

Zimbra is out today with the first major release of its open source based Zimbra Collaboration (ZCS) solution since being acquired by Yahoo last year. Zimbra's ZCS release also comes at a particularly interesting time as Microsoft bids for ownership of Yahoo.

ZCS 5.0 extends the feature set of ZCS and also introduces integrations with Yahoo products as Zimbra ramps up to compete against Microsoft Outlook and Exchange.

"This is by far the largest release in terms of new features and technology that Zimbra has ever put together," said Scott Dietzen, a vice president of engineering at Yahoo and chief technology officer of its Zimbra group. "We're exciting about completing the mobility story and making great progress on unified messaging with instant messaging."

With ZCS 5.0, Zimbra's solution is now available for wide array of mobile devices including all BlackBerry units and even the Apple iPhone. Zimbra has also included instant messaging integration with Yahoo Instant messenger as well.

ZCS 5.0 also has a few other integrations with Yahoo including one for Flickr images and one for Yahoo Search. Dietzen explained that overall Zimbra is trying to do a better job of mashing up with Yahoo properties.

Zimbra includes a collaboration server that handles the back end of e-mail, calendaring and collaboration, and a browser-based AJAX client front end, which runs on all major browsers. With the 5.0 release Zimbra is also hyping its desktop client as well which will now officially hit its 1.0 Beta release. Zimbra first began talking about the technology behind its desktop client just under a year ago. Dietzen noted that Zimbra is still looking for some additional feedback before declaring the Desktop client 1.0 release final.

"This (Zimbra Desktop) is more about people that are curious about the Zimbra user experience and the things that make your calendar and email experience far more effective," Dietzen explained. "We've dramatically reduced barriers to getting people to easily try Zimbra."

Now that it's part of Yahoo, Zimbra's technology will likely reach a far broader audience than the company could have achieved on its own. Dietzen noted that Yahoo's plan for Zimbra is multifaceted and includes both the further integration of Yahoo properties into Zimbra as well as the further integration of Zimbra into Yahoo.

"The current release of Yahoo's consumer webmail is not derived from Zimbra technology," Dietzen said. "However you should have the expectation that some Zimbra technology will be surfaced to ultimately enhance the Yahoo community experience."

Dietzen wouldn't elaborate further on Zimbra for Yahoo Mail other than to say that the Yahoo Mail community is thriving and currently satisfies its users.

"The most important rule is if we're going to add in new tech and do no harm," Dietzen said.

With the move to Yahoo, Zimbra also changed its license from a Mozilla public license plus attribution to a Yahoo Public License (YPL) which is an open source style license providing open source code. ZCS is available in an open source edition which is freely available and a Network version which is a paid offering.

While Dietzen is enthusiastic about his relationship with his bosses at Yahoo, he is decidedly tight lipped about any potential ownership change at Yahoo with Microsoft's bid.

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment," Dietzen said. "I don't have any direct insight into this. From a Zimbra perspective we just have to look after our business and our open source community and I'll do everything to make sure it's a healthy and successful community."