Scalix offers Firefox-based imitation of Outlook

Summary:For Scalix's first trick, it offered an Exchange-compatible e-mail and calendaring server for a fraction of the cost of what it takes to run Exchange. (The company's founder, Julie Farris [right], says savings typically run from 30 to 70 percent.

Scalix founder Julie Farris
For Scalix's first trick, it offered an Exchange-compatible e-mail and calendaring server for a fraction of the cost of what it takes to run Exchange. (The company's founder, Julie Farris [right], says savings typically run from 30 to 70 percent.) With Scalix's server, Outlook clients supposedly won't even know when an Exchange server has been swapped out for a Scalix one. But for Scalix's second trick, it has developed a browser-based e-mail client that could make the developers of Google's GMail drool. Using DHTML, XML, and JavaScript, the developers at Scalix have come up with a browser-based e-mail and calendaring client that looks, feels, behaves and smells like Outlook (check out the photo). To the untrained eye, it's hard to tell the difference. But the Firefox logo in the titlebar is a hint. The interface has folders, look-ahead cache-based e-mail addressing, supports drag and drop, sorting, search (although a full text search can't be done across all folders yet), and more.

Podcast
So, what are the implications of the technology? First, it may be a classic example of how open source can drive cost out of today's server infrastructures. But let's say you swap the servers to save money and the clients are still running Windows an Outlook. The next step to something more independent on the desktop is to get your users onto Scalix's browser-based e-mail client. One of the biggest advantages of this architecture over a fat client like Outlook is that users can go to any system and access their e-mail much the same way that can be done with Outlook Web Access (OWA). In fact, Scalix's e-mail client is exactly what OWA should be. (Shame on Microsoft for not having done something like this already -- especially since it is espousing the idea of HTML applications as a part of Longhorn.) Another big advantage is that it works identically in Firefox and Internet Explorer.

But suppose your users start accessing their e-mail inboxes and calendars with Firefox. At that point, the e-mail system that was one of your barriers to switching to Linux on the desktop no longer is. Yes, Novell's Evolution offers similar opportunities, but the migration path isn't as staged or as smooth.

I caught up with Farris for my first-ever podcast (download the MP3, or learn how to have them automatically downloaded while you're sleeping) from a trade show floor.

Topics: Browser

About

David Berlind was fomerly the executive editor of ZDNet. David holds a BBA in Computer Information Systems. Prior to becoming a tech journalist in 1991, David was an IT manager.

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