Xandros syncs mail with Microsoft

Xandros announced today further developments in its new protocol licensing deal with Microsoft Corp., which will see the Linux vendor improve interoperability between its Scalix e-mail servers and Microsoft e-mail protocols.

Expanding on the partnership minted in June, Microsoft has proffered to Xandros the specification and licenses of Exchange ActiveSync and the Outlook Exchange Transport Protocol. The former will allow on-the-go users to tap into their inboxes from a mobile device, while the latter will ease integration of the mail applications and the Scalix Mail Server.

ActiveSync allows Windows Mobile and Windows CE devices to synchronize with Exchange information. Xandros will develop a server-side implementation of Exchange ActiveSync so Xandros’ Scalix Mail Servers can synchronize data over wireless networks directly with mobile clients that use ActiveSync, said Florian von Kurnatowski, director of program management for Scalix at Xandros.

Microsoft’s Outlook-Exchange Transport Protocol allows desktop clients such as Microsoft Outlook running on Windows to communicate directly with Exchange Server.

Currently, ActiveSync-enabled devices can interact directly with Scalix Mail Servers if third-party software is installed locally on the client. Xandros’ ActiveSync implementation will eliminate the need for that software. According to von Kurnatowski, Xandros should produce the first results from its implementation of the protocols in six to 12 months.

There is an upside to the collaboration as the move is a sign of further Linux penetration into the enterprise, said Evan Leibovitch, executive director of the Canadian Association for Open Source.

“It means that Linux entering the mainstream of IT can’t be ignored,” he said.

The downside, however, is that one has to license the protocols, added Leibovitch. “I recognize that you have to license the protocols, but when it comes to serving the computer-using public, it’s better for all of us.”

Toronto-based The Strategic Counsel senior associate Warren Shiau agreed that the deal generally benefits the users.

“Why wouldn’t something that drives at improving interoperability between open source and Microsoft be good? Here we have an open source-based e-mail server (Scalix) that Xandros and Microsoft are going to have working with Exchange and Microsoft-based e-mail clients.”

Shiau admits that from an open source purist’s perspective, “this is all very dodgy” as Xandros is licensing Microsoft protocols as part of the deal.

“But from a realist’s point of view (i.e. just making everything work together), you can’t really say anything bad about it,” he said.

Leibovitch doesn’t think that Microsoft’s protocol deal with Xandros takes anything away from the increasing need for Linux compatibility. “It does not do anything to Linux use,” said Leibovitch.

Gary Layng, a Toronto-based IT consultant, said the deal has the semblance of encouraging competition, but that it is yet another attempt to stifle competition.

“Open source has a very bright future,” he said. “Microsoft has a very large problem. Open source programs tend to be aimed at things we commonly do—not just servers, but desktop, e-mail, and Internet. The community satisfies itches that need to be scratched…all provided for free. The paradigm is shifting tremendously, and Microsoft is scrambling to do that.”

This type of protocol-sharing deals are not yet a full-on trend, according to Layng, who said that companies that get sucked into this type of protocol-licensing deal tend to be struggling financially or with brand awareness (Xandros, for instance, was not a particularly well-known company prior to its involvement with Microsoft).

The Free Software Foundation has rewritten the GNU General Public License 3.0, which aims to prevent similar patent deals occurring in the future. But, said Layng, open source’s future as the program of choice will make bending these rules very tempting.

“Microsoft does want to continue to make money after this shift (by profiting off of Microsoft/Linux interoperability),” he said.

With files from IDG News Service

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