Xandros and Scalix: A marriage of convenience

Today's trivia-by-association question: I say, "Linux." Quick, what's your first thought?

Today's trivia-by-association question: I say, "Linux." Quick, what's your first thought? ...  

Xandros is gambling that their transition from a desktop Linux player to an end-to-end Linux platform player will drive Xandros mindshare, so as to position them with the Linux "big boys." Given the voluminous number of Linux distributions, Xandros's ambition is lofty -- but not insurmountable.

In 2004, Xandros stepped into the server market, and progressively built out their infrastructure platform.

Meanwhile in the Scalix camp, founder Julie Hanna Farris had been skillfully, and aggressively, marketing Scalix as the "Exchange Killer." As ZDNet's David Berlind wrote back in 2005:

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.

Though certainly one of the more prevalent voices in the messaging/collaboration world, Scalix hardly has been alone in its ambition to capture Exchange defectors. For the novice (and often experienced) enterprise and small- to medium-sized business decision makers, "product differentiators" are often perceived to be merely nuances.

An executed roadmap builds creditability, which builds clout, which influences the influencers. Scalix was build upon the proprietary, legacy Hewlett-Packard (HP) OpenMail technology. In July 2006, Scalix announced their partnership with HP to open-source HP's OpenMail technology. In December 2006, Scalix partnered with open source CRM provider, SugarCRM. The seeds for the Xandros acquisition, however, were sewn when they collaborated on the Scalix Xandros Edition.

With Xandros's infrastructure and Scalix's application stack, plus a common commitment to open source, their marriage seemed to be preordained. As with any marriage, however, relatives can interfere with bliss. In this union, the relative is Microsoft.

Xandros and Microsoft in June agreed to a broad set of joint technology and marketing initiatives. Among other things, the companies plan to develop software that will link Xandros' System Management tools with Microsoft's System Center -- with an eye to giving IT departments an easier way to manage heterogeneous environments.

Under the most controversial aspect of the deal, Microsoft will extend "patent covenants" to Xandros' Linux customers, waving its right to sue them for using what the company claims is Microsoft technology embedded in Linux.

And so it goes ... Xandros is walking a tightrope

  • building mindshare by
  • developing an "end-to-end" platform and application stack
  • which, in Xandros's grandest dreams, could compete with Microsoft
  • though through necessity today, they partner with Microsoft,
  • the "Exchange Killer" fallacy will live on.

Xandros's acquisition of Scalix follows the natural order of technology development, which is, of course, always a marriage of convenience.