Linux e-mail software gets Exchange hooks

Ximian Corp., a maker of open-source desktop software, said Monday it plans to begin selling a piece of software that will allow users of its Linux applications to easily connect to a corporate network running Microsoft Corp.’s Exchange 2000 server software.

The Boston-based software maker also announced Monday the availability of Version 1.0 of Ximian Evolution, its personal and workgroup management software for Linux and Unix operating systems. Similar to Microsoft’s Outlook e-mail management software, Evolution includes applications for accessing e-mail, calendars, address books and to-do lists.

Ximian has developed a proprietary piece of software called Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange, which is due out in January and will allow Ximian Evolution users to plug their Linux computer into a corporate network running an Exchange server, the company said. The connector will extend Evolution into the Windows environment so users can manage e-mail, calendars and to-do lists as if they were using Microsoft’s Outlook software.

“This allows Evolution users on Linux to become good corporate citizens,” said John Perr, vice president of marketing at Ximian.

Perr said Ximian commonly works with customers who run Linux workstations and desktop PCs in small pockets of a company. However, due to difficulties managing those machines in the Windows network, they often end up using a second Windows PC beside their Linux box to access e-mail and other productivity applications.

“Those people will now really be able to use their Linux desktop as their primary work environment, and collaborate with other Exchange users,” he said.

About 800,000 users have downloaded or purchased Ximian Evolution since open source developers began working on the software two years ago, the company said.

Aside from enabling more interoperability between Linux and Windows, the release of Ximian’s connector software also marks a new step for the company – it is the first product it will sell under a proprietary software license. All of its other software, such as the GNOME interface and Ximian Evolution, are licensed under the open source GNU General Public License, the company said.

Ximian Evolution is available as a free download for users of the company’s software management client Red Carpet, or on a CD as part of its Ximian Desktop productivity suite. That package of software is available in a Standard Edition for US$29.95 or Professional Edition for US$49.95.

Ximian Connector for Microsoft Exchange will be available in July at a cost of US$69 per seat. Bulk purchases of 10 seats will be available for US$599, and a 25-seat pack will be available for US$1,499, the company said.

Ximian’s software products run on a variety of Linux distributions including those from Red Hat Inc., MandrakeSoft SA, SuSE Inc. and Turbolinux Inc., as well as Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Solaris operating system.

Ximian, in Boston, is at