Yahoo updates Zimbra's application platform

The new version of the Zimbra e-mail and collaboration suite also has user interface enhancements

Yahoo has updated the application platform of its Zimbra messaging and collaboration suite, making it possible for developers to create more sophisticated gadgets that can be integrated with the product more deeply.

Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) has allowed third-party developers to build lightweight "zimlet" applications that add functionality to the product.

The new 6.0 version, a major upgrade that has been in the works for a year-and-a-half, allows coders to craft what Yahoo calls "fully featured" applications that can run in their own interface tab within the suite.

"It's a deeper, more peer-level application within the 'zimlet' framework that's unique to 6.0," said Jim Morrisroe, Zimbra general manager and vice president.

By making it possible for developers to create more powerful applications, Yahoo hopes the suite's functionality will be extended in valuable and interesting ways.

For example, developers have already created new "zimlets" that add VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) and social media functionality to ZCS, according to Morrisroe. The development platform improvements include a better API (application programming interface) for mobile "zimlets."

Other ZCS 6.0 enhancements include the 300 most-requested features by customers, according to Yahoo, such as a three-pane e-mail interface and the ability to move away from a compose e-mail window without having to save it as a draft.

It also features improvements to its mobile version, including new IT administrative controls to, for example, wipe clean Zimbra data from a lost or stolen mobile device.

End-users can perform more tasks from mobile browsers, such as creating and editing contacts and calendar appointments.

The new version of the suite also adds new IT controls, such as more granular access and permission rights, management of distribution lists and new alerts.

"Zimbra 6.0 adds some essential elements crucial to success in the commercial market such as remote device wipe for mobile users and role-based delegation of administration tasks," Gartner analyst Matt Cain said via e-mail.

"Furthermore, the social software zimlet applet acknowledges the growing demand for integrating social media feeds into the e-mail client," Cain added.

ZCS, which can be installed in-house on customers' servers or accessed from a Zimbra hosting partner over the Internet, recently reached the milestone of 50 million paid mailboxes, an increase of 265 percent year over year.

Recent customer wins include Bechtel Corp., Computer Sciences Corp., WebMD and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

ZCS 6.0, which will be available on Wednesday, comes in various editions, including the Open Source Edition and the Professional Edition, whose prices vary.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Yahoo is seeking a buyer for Zimbra, which Yahoo itself acquired in late 2007.

Yahoo's CEO, Carol Bartz, has declined to comment about the article, which was based on information from unnamed sources, but she has said the Zimbra technology is of great importance to Yahoo, in particular because it has been used to improve Yahoo Mail, the company's consumer webmail service.

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