A new twist for open-source software: innovation

Steve Hamm

Open source software is a lot of good things. It's inexpensive, shared, and creates alternatives to monopolistic proprietary software. Up until recently, however, it hasn't been very technically innovative. Most packages so far have copied the basic functionality of pre-existing commercial software. Now, that's changing. Flock is one example. It's the new open-source browser designed with social computing in mind. I blogged about it earlier today. Another example: Zimbra, an alternative to Microsoft's Exchange server program. Its goal is spare people many of the headaches of managing hundreds of e-mails a day.

While Yahoo, AOL, and Google are taking on Microsoft in the sphere of consumer e-mail, Zimbra Inc. is focusing on enterprise mail. The two-year-old company, which launched publicly on Oct. 5, offers a Web e-mail client, but most of its engineering work is concentrated on the server. Its Zimbra Collaboration Suite runs on Linux, Unix, Windows and MacOS servers, and supports most popular e-mail clients, including Microsoft's Outlook. Zimbra (name taken from Talking Heads song. What's not to like?) has some pre-existing competition in the open-source sphere, including Scalix.

Zimbra claims it's pioneering with technical innovations. It has re-architected its mail server from the ground up to work on the Web, using open industry tech standards including AJAX, XML, and Web containers.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.