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Linux Collaboration: All About The Apps

For years, pundits have proclaimed that the Linux Desktop is coming, and yet it was still lacking in some of the critical collaboration apps that enterprises rely on.

Some have argued that without key collaboration applications that can interface with Microsoft's Exchange, enterprises won't adopt Linux.

That's going to change this year.

Collaboration applications, old and new, are coming to Linux desktops and servers en masse.

Among the vendors lining up to the Linux and open source trough are IBM, Zimbra, Scalix and OpenXchange. The offerings may well also help to dissuade some from using proprietary alternatives, such as Microsoft's Exchange.

Zimbra is announcing version 4.0 of its collaboration suite (ZCS), which includes e-mail, calendar and content-sharing features.

Version 3.0 came out earlier this year following a period in which Zimbra was in stealth mode, according to CTO Scott Dietzen.

ZCS 4.0 is actually going to be what Zimbra had originally begun as ZCS 3.2, which is currently in beta 2, but has decided to renumber the development due to the number of enhancements in the product.

Among those enhancements is Zimbra's implementation of the ALE –- Ajax Linking and Embedding specification that it pioneered.

ALE is to AJAX what OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) is to Microsoft Windows.

With the Zimbra Documents feature in ZCS 4.0 users can take advantage of ALE to embed, share, edit and publish content inside of a browser interface.

ZCS 4.0 will also include Zimbra Mobile, which will provide over-the-air synchronization for various mobile devices, including those from Symbian, Palm, Windows Mobile, Nokia, Motorola and Samsung.

Scalix is also announcing Scalix version 11, the new version of its collaboration platform. As with ZCS 4.0, the solution now includes a mobile component.

Scalix Web Access Mobile provides users with mailbox access via their PDAs or cell phones.

The new version also includes enhanced management capabilities and improvements to Scalix's support for Microsoft Outlook. Scalix roots lie in HP's OpenMail source code, which Scalix owns.

Open-Xchange for its part has announced that it is now available as a SpikeSource Certified Solution.

The SpikeSource offering aims to provide users with an easier approach to integration and support.

And then there's IBM.

In July, Big Blue announced that after years of customer requests, it was finally going to provide Lotus Notes for the Linux desktop.

IBM is now following up that initiative by making Lotus Sametime 7.5 available on Linux.

The company will not be rolling out support for Sametime on the Linux desktop and on Linux servers at the same time, though. The desktop client is expected later this summer, and the server is expected in early 2007.

Ultimately the growth in application availability on Linux is about market opportunity. It's an opportunity that IBM's Scott Handy, vice president of worldwide Linux and Open Source at IBM, sees as growing significantly.

"The desktop market is just so big in terms of volume that it takes a lot of units to show up on a market share report," Handy told internetnews.com.

"The truth is that 7 to 9 million Linux desktops will go in this year, and only 6 million Linux servers. There is a lot of activity; it just shows up as a small percentage.

"We think we're very close to a tipping point," Handy added.

"Application availability is a big piece of this, and the fact that customers are requesting it certainly tells me that we're right on the edge of the volume going up significantly."