Open-Xchange Upgrades Mail Server With Multi-Device Support, More

Enterprise Open-Xchange users are able to view their documents, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, photos and more on one screen using any device and operating system.

BERLIN — Open-Xchange is giving its flagship mail server product a big upgrade to better serve users, adding everything from multi-device capabilities to easy integration with social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

The company debuted the new feature-filled OX App Suite at its Open-Xchange Summit here Nov. 15 as a way for enterprises to help their users do more tasks at once while using only one browser-based interface. The user interface is designed to display appropriately on tablets, laptops, smartphones and other devices.

"To bring it all together, no matter what kind of device, OX App Suite can deliver documents, emails, photographs, videos and more to users," said Rafael Laguna, CEO of Open-Xchange. "We need a trusted center of our digital lives. That's where OX App Suite fits in."

The integration means users can launch OX App Suite and find easy linkages to their key tools, including Facebook, outside email accounts from Gmail and others, as well as easy access to LinkedIn, Twitter and any other sites or applications that enterprises want to include.

"It's not a next-generation email product, but a suite of products that organizes your digital life," said Laguna. "You want your data to be somewhere where you know you can get there no matter what device you use."

For CIOs and IT managers, the new OX App Suite means companies can organize the desired applications for employees in one easy-to-find spot, rather than leaving them in separate applications where they have to take the time to access them individually. At the same time, the data remains with the original source, be it Facebook or LinkedIn or whatever, so that companies don't have to manage it, said Laguna.

"This just brings it all together for their employees, which can increase productivity because they are going to these apps separately anyway," he said.

Enterprises can also use the new product as an internal communications channel for enterprise social media.

"OX App Suite essentially creates a cloud-based portal where companies can mix and match what they want to be there for their users," said Jurgen Geck, CTO of Open-Xchange. "In general, every application needs its own interface to do things," such as LinkedIn or Facebook. "But by leveraging what we get from HTML5, JavaScript and jQuery, users can now bring together all of the things they want"—their core business applications and services—within the Open-Xchange user interface.

The previous mail server version, Open-Xchange Server 6 (OX6), included an early implementation of that all-in-one screen feature, but it wasn't simple to implement, Geck said.

OX6, which was created in 2006, "was kind of reflecting the ribbon bar idea of Microsoft Office," he said. "We went there because the leaders of the industry at that time went down that route. OX App Suite completely does away with that and is a very sparse, sober, lean user interface that can be extended to the hilt. There are no limitations. You can do anything that you can do on a Website with OX App Suite."

The new version also will allow CIOs to tie in other business applications, such as CRM, ERP and more, he said.

OX6 could do some of these things, but it was a lot harder to set up the desired linkages, said Geck. "You had to do it the OX way or the highway. When we started this, there was no HTLM5, JavaScript or jQuery."

Another new feature of OX App Suite is Halo, which automatically combines other data from a user's contacts in a single place, delivering a full view of past email exchanges, contact information, network data from LinkedIn and other social media tools, shared documents and appointments.

Data is synchronized among all devices when using the suite so that if a connection drops, the data is restored to its original state when the connection is re-established.

The suite will be available in December as a cloud service from Open-Xchange partners or as a stand-alone application for on-premises installations.

Existing users can easily upgrade to OX App Suite without any user or data disruption, according to Open-Xchange. Users can choose to work with the existing OX6 user interface or with the new OX App Suite user interface or both.

Philbert Shih, an analyst with Structure Research, said the changes to Open-Xchange's product are keeping with the times. "Between what is personal and what is work today, the lines have become blurred," Shih said. "It's almost impossible to separate. Providing a platform to manage a situation that is inevitable makes sense."

Competitors, including Google and Microsoft, are trying similar tactics, as they work to grow and maintain their user bases, said Shih. "Most companies are looking at consolidating technology tools rather than separating them. It's just too difficult to try to manage your data and services across multiple applications and devices. It makes more sense to keep it all together."