Ximian Branching Out

Connector product ties desktop, groupware to Microsoft Exchange.

Ximian Inc. is the latest company with open-source roots to start selling proprietary products.

Ximian, the open-source desktop company formerly known as Helix Code Inc., this week will announce a new proprietary product, the Ximian Connector for Microsoft Corp.s Exchange, which will bridge the gap between users Linux desktops and their Exchange servers, said Nat Friedman, Ximian co-founder and vice president of product development, in Boston.

Ximian also is announcing this week the availability of Evolution 1.0, its open-source graphical personal and workgroup information management solution for Linux and Unix systems. This system can be used as groupware that connects Linux and Unix users to popular corporate communications architectures and allows users to share calendar and task information.

The Connector is an extension that allows the Evolution application to work as a groupware client for Exchange 2000, Friedman said.

Friedman stressed that the company is not moving away from its open-source roots and remains committed to developing an open-source desktop. "We have already contributed more than 2 million lines of code to the GNOME [GNU Network Object Model Environment] desktop effort and will continue to do so," he said.

"But, at the same time, we are a business, and many of our corporate customers have been asking for a solution like this. Our business plan has always been to provide a mix of free and proprietary software, solutions and services," he said.

Users such as Robert Cole, a systems administrator for pharmaceutical company Zila Inc., in Phoenix, welcome the move. Cole has been evaluating Evolution for use at his company and said Connector is an important product in this regard.

"I have been testing Evolution for some time and am really happy with it," he said. "With all the security problems Microsoft has been having of late, were looking at possibly migrating part of the desktop to Linux, and Ximians products make a good interface for users who are accustomed to Windows."

Zilas essential Windows applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, would be retained, while Internet applications such as e-mail and browser would be migrated.

"I want to set up a Linux system running VMware so that users can access their Windows applications in a virtual machine," Cole said. "The base operating system would be Linux, and Ximian the application ware."

Ximians move to include a proprietary component of its offering follows similar moves by ArsDigita Corp., of Cambridge, Mass., which now sells proprietary modules to its once fully open-source product for Web-based e-commerce software. In addition, Sendmail Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., sells a proprietary e-mail application, and Covalent Technologies, of San Francisco, sells its Apache Web page delivery programs—both of which are proprietary enhancements of open-source foundations.

Ximians Connector is due early next year and costs $69 for a single user, $599 for a 10-user pack and $1,499 for 25 users. Evolution 1.0 is now available for download from the Ximian Web site as part of its desktop software. It will also be available for purchase on CD within three weeks as part of the Ximian Desktop Standard Edition and Desktop Professional Edition.