By Barry Levine / Data Storage Today. Updated July 25, 2008.
Zimbra is offering an office productivity suite. The Yahoo-owned provider of open-source messaging and collaboration tools announced Thursday a free beta of Yahoo Zimbra Desktop, which offers a centralized location for managing e-mail even when a user is not connected to the Internet, plus a tool for creating documents and spreadsheets.
Satish Dharmaraj, cofounder of Zimbra and a vice president of Yahoo, said the new application takes the "world-class collaboration suite and makes it available for everyone for use anywhere, anytime, with any e-mail account."
Docs, Spreadsheets, Tasks
Yahoo said Zimbra Desktop is available for Windows, Mac and Linux users with access to the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, AOL, or any IMAP/POP-enabled server. The desktop is a downloadable application that doesn't run in a browser window and offers offline access to e-mail.
Using the same Zimbra interface as its previous messaging and collaboration incarnation, the desktop expands on such functions as mashups with other services so that, for example, a user can view an e-mail, see his or her schedule when hovering over a date, or see a flight's status when hovering over a flight number.
The desktop also provides document creation, spreadsheets, task management, and document storage as part of Yahoo's effort to play in the same arena as Google and Microsoft. With Zimbra Documents added to the desktop, users can embed photos and other objects into documents and spreadsheets and switch tasks without opening other applications.
To stay organized, there's also calendaring, task management, and online document storage. Zimbra Briefcase, part of desktop, enables users to store files online and Zimbra Tasks offers to-do lists with start and due dates, progress, percent complete, and priority ratings. The calendar uses the iCal standard for taking a calendar offline and e-mails can be labeled with advanced tagging.
'Huge Area of Competition'
Microsoft Office files can't be opened in Zimbra Desktop. So Microsoft may not have anything to worry about in the short run, said Gartner Vice President Michael Silver, although someday this will become "a huge area of competition."
At the moment, Silver added, most of the online-focused productivity products are "not yet mature enough to replace" or seriously compete with the king of the realm, Microsoft Office.
Microsoft hasn't entered this market in force yet, he noted, and Office can't be used online, although the company has introduced some collaborative features. But at some point, Silver said, "we think they will enter this market."
In the meantime, he said, users will start trying these online productivity products, using them for some things, and Microsoft Office for most other things -- but eventually these competitors "could become a long-term problem" for the software giant.