Yahoo's Zimbra Releases v5.0 with BlackBerry Support, New Ajax Features

Zimbra, an open-source alternative to Microsoft Exchange Server that was acquired by Yahoo this past September, has released version 5.0 of its collaboration suite. The upgrades are various and wide-reaching, with support finally here for the BlackBerry and several improvements made to Zimbra’s browser-based email client.

In addition to managing their email, calendars and contacts, customers can now use Zimbra’s browser-based client to instant message, collaborate on documents via wiki, and share files. Yahoo search functionality, and local search in particular, has been integrated into the browser-based client as well, enabling users to search Yahoo Maps from within their email interface.

Zimbra’s desktop client, which was soft launched last March and emulates much of the browser-based client, now supports non-Zimbra email accounts (like Yahoo Mail and Gmail, or any POP/IMAP account). However, desktop support for instant messaging, document collaboration, and file sharing has yet to be added.

While versions of Zimbra have existed for Windows Mobile, Palm, Symbian, iPhone and other mobile devices, only now has Zimbra released a version of its server that can work with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server and, therefore, BlackBerry devices. Zimbra is only the fourth company, behind Microsoft, Novell, and IBM, to develop compatibility with the BlackBerry server, and the only one to do it without direct assistance from RIM, producer of the BlackBerry. John Robb of Zimbra says that BlackBerry support required a lot of development so that the Zimbra server could emulate Exchange Server and communicate with the BlackBerry server.

Zimbra has passed the 20,000 customers and 11M+ mailboxes marks. Companies can choose to run Zimbra by installing the company’s server package locally or paying a third party to host the software remotely. While Robb says that Zimbra is not focused on providing any hosted solutions soon, it is something that they plan to do in the longer term.