Mozilla's T-Bird 3 to get calendar, search, UI, config, add-on improvements in late 2008-early 2009

The newly minted Mozilla e-mail subsidiary has moved out of stealth mode and is targeting the release of the next generation of Thunderbird for late 2008.The open source Thunderbird 3, now under development, will feature integrated calendaring, better search, easier configuration, significant user interface improvements and better extensibility, said Mozilla Messaging Inc, the newly named subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation.

Thunderbird
The newly minted Mozilla e-mail subsidiary has moved out of stealth mode and is targeting the release of the next generation of Thunderbird for late 2008.

The open source Thunderbird 3, now under development, will feature integrated calendaring, better search, easier configuration, significant user interface improvements and better extensibility, said Mozilla Messaging Inc, the newly named subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation.

The plan is to incorporate into Thunderbird 3 the existing open source “Lightning” calendar, which is currently offered an add-on extension to the 10-month-old Thunderbird 2. Sun Microsystems is a major contributor to the Lightning project.

Of course, there’s really nothing new or surprising here. Tehy're shotting for release by the end of the year but acknowledge it could slip into 2009 depending on developer input. The biggest news today is the official re-launch of the Mozilla Foundation’s open source e-mail project, which to date has failed to garner as much momentum as its star sibling, the open source Firefox browser.

In September, the foundation announced that it would spin off the e-mail project as part of its Internet Mail and Communications Initiative and create a new subsidiary and management team to lead the re-launch.

As noted today, Mozilla Messaging Inc named to its board of directors David Ascher, a former development lead at (open source IDE firm) ActiveState and Mozilla Messaging’s new CEO, Chris Beard, a Mozilla veteran product manager and VP and General Manager of Mozilla Labs, and Marten Mickos, CEO of MySQL AB (and user of Thunderbird since 2004).

Mozilla Messaging now has the funding, management and developer support it needs to catapult Thunderbird to the top. And while the days of being overshadowed by Firefox may be over, Thunderbird has a tough race ahead trying to steal the spotlight away from top seeded e-mail rivals.

Microsoft’s Outlook and Google Mail are – and will continue to be -- dominant players in the web e-mail client area. And there are several other open source e-mail efforts – including Qualcomm’s forthcoming Eudora open source e-mail add-on for Thunderbird, a joint project between Qualcomm and Mozilla!

Nevertheless, Mozilla Messaging execs are exuding confidence about Thunderbird’s prospects going forward – based on the upcoming Thunderbird 3 and core architectural features of Firefox that can be parlayed for the e-mail masses. Mozilla Messaging, for example, plans to use the Firefox extensibility engine to build a big add-on development comunity around T-Bird.

In his blog today, Ascher notes that Thunderbird has a robust web stack that can integrate powerfully with web sites and web services, making it ideal as a collaboration platform for integrating IM, IRC, VoIP, blogging, social networking and other web 2.0 communications experiences.

“In parallel, we’re going to be starting a multi-year process of improving the back-end architecture of Thunderbird,” Ascher wrote. “Over the years, Thunderbird hasn’t had the resources devoted to it that Firefox has, and it’s time to catch up, so that we can implement many of the features we have planned, and so that we can take advantage of the improvements to the Mozilla platform that were built for Firefox, but which we can leverage as well.”

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