Novell's new groupware platform, GroupWise 7, is almost ready for release, so the company is letting users take it out for a test drive.
Novell Inc. announced Tuesday open beta availability of the latest version of its groupware program, Novell GroupWise 7.
The new edition of GroupWise comes with an integrated e-mail and instant messaging interface, enhanced Outlook XP and 2003 support, and a bundled copy of SLES 9 (SuSE Linux Enterprise Server) to run it on. Thus, GroupWise buyers dont need to purchase an additional server operating system.
While it comes with SLES, GroupWise 7 runs on multiple server platforms, including Linux, NetWare and Windows 2003.
On the client side, Novell supports Windows, Linux and Mac OS with new clients. In addition, the updated GroupWise supports a Web interface and mobile devices. GroupWise 7 also supports PocketPC and Palm OS-based PDA synchronization.
"Our multiplatform approach gives customers choice and freedom, without them having to worry about whether their collaboration system is up and ready for them," said David Patrick, Novells vice president and general manager of Linux, open-source platforms and services, in a statement.
"GroupWises availability on Linux, in addition to other platforms, offers customers a real choice for firms looking beyond Windows," added Mark Levitt, IDCs vice president for collaborative computing.
According to Jon Myers, a Novell product marketing manager, users are given a choice between the classic GroupWise client interface and a completely overhauled front end. With the new interface, Novell has integrated IM and presence. As a result, if you notice that the person youre sending e-mail to is online, you can simply send an IM instead.
The GroupWise 7 server can support all the functionality that Outlook XP and 2003 clients get from Microsoft Exchange, Myers said. In addition, thanks to the new GroupWises SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), a standard Web services-oriented interface, other clients can be used with it. Novell itself uses the SOAP interface to connect its open-source, Linux e-mail client Evolution with GroupWise.
PC Magazine reviews Novell GroupWise 6.5. Click here to read what it found.
GroupWises strongest points though arent its interface or back-end flexibility, according to Wendy Steinle, Novells director of product marketing. Its GroupWises combination of stability and security.
"GroupWise has by far the fewest vulnerabilities and greatest uptime of any major collaboration program," said Steinle.
Plus, she said, since "Exchange 5.5 will no longer be supported as of Dec. 31, now is an ideal time for Exchange customers to look for a better answer like GroupWise."
"Novells commitment to supporting GroupWise through 2015 is a strong signal to customers [that] GroupWise can be counted on today and into the foreseeable future," said IDCs Levitt.
Novell is striking hard on this marketing point.
Steinle said Novell is now offering "Microsoft Exchange upgrade and free migration utilities to Exchange customers."
That also includes, said Steinle, an "Exchange-to-GroupWise competitive upgrade promotion for customers with 200 or more Exchange licenses. For a limited time, customers migrating to GroupWise from Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes can purchase a single GroupWise user license for $49, including two years of upgrade protection, a savings of more than 70 percent off the current price for GroupWise 6.5."
Many e-mail vendors, however, have tried this approach, noted Richi Jennings, lead analyst for Ferris Research.
"Of course, Novell talks about new business and migrating Exchange users, as do plenty of other e-mail server vendors, such as Scalix Corp., IBM/Lotus and Kerio Technologies Inc.," said Jennings.
But, "traction in this market is much slower to arrive than many thought. Plenty of people are kicking the tires, but few are willing to put their hands in their pockets," he said.
"For quite some time," Jennings said, "GroupWise has basically been an installed base play for Novell. The general move away from NetWare to Linux is a strategy to stem defections to Windows servers."
That said, "many of those who currently have GroupWise are very happy with it, and will mostly be pleased to see it moved onto a more modern OS," said Jennings.
Open beta versions of Novell GroupWise 7 are now available for free download, and customers can preorder GroupWise 7 beginning July 7. Pricing will be announced at when the product becomes available in mid-August. Pricing is expected, however, to be in line with current GroupWise 6.5 pricing.
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Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.