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IBM to give OpenOffice the Outlook e-mail killer it needs?

IBM has finally taken the big leap to support rival Sun's OpenOffice.org project, a move that could have significant impact on the adoption of the open source Office suite.
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Written by Paula Rooney, Contributor on

IBM has finally taken the big leap to support rival Sun's OpenOffice.org project, a move that could have significant impact on the adoption of the open source Office suite.

As part of that commitment, announced Monday, IBM released its first code contributions from Lotus Notes such as accessibility enhancements. But more important, the Armonk, NY company, a longtime Linux supporter that competes aggressively against Sun in the server business, hinted that other "rich features" from the leading e-mail and groupware program could find its way into the OpenOffice code base.

Has the Outlook killer for OpenOffice finally arrived?

OpenOffice is the most promising open source alternative to Microsoft Office that runs on most Linux distributions, Windows, Macintosh and BSD but to date it has lacked an integrated e-mail service such as the Outlook client that is integrated in Microsoft Office.

It remains unclear how much of Lotus Notes will end up in OpenOffice. Still, any integration of key Notes features would give the Office suite -- and the ISO approved OpenDocument Format (ODF) -- a big shot in the arm. Notes is the No. 2 e-mail and groupware solution in the market that rivals Microsoft's Outlook/Exchange platform for enterprises. Microsoft has proposed its own Office Open XML as an ISO standard but it failed to muster enough votes for approval in a recent ISO vote.

The news comes about a week before Sun's OpenOffice.org conference begins in Barcelona, Spain. IBM has been involved in many open source projects including Apache and Eclipse but its competitive relationship with Sun has historically precluded involvement in OpenOffice. Sun created OpenOffice in 2000. OpenOffice 2.0, which was released in late 2005, includes word processing, spreadsheet, database, presentation and drawing modules.

Other open source projects have attemped to fill the e-mail gap with little succees.

The Mozilla Foundation's Thunderbird e-mail client, developed for Firefox, is a contender for that slot but has failed to garner the same level of market share as its popular browser sibling. Late last year, Qualcomm announced its intent to kill its popular Eudora e-mail client as a commercial product and develop it with Mozilla developers as an open source extensions for Thunderbird.

Last week, Eudora and Mozilla developers working together on the "Penelope" extension for Thunderbird announced the first beta of the merged e-mail client, which is due for release later this year.

It's unclear how successful that will be or how much of Lotus Notes will ever make it into OpenOffice. As it stands, OpenOffice.org has announced that the next generation OpenOffice 3.0 will add a new chart module, report designer and Microsoft Office 2007 import filter -- no e-mail. Yet. OpenOffice 3.0 is slated for release next September.

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