Scalix's main product is the Scalix Collaboration Platform, based on what was once Hewlett Packard's OpenMail. It's an open, cross-platform groupware and messaging system - email, calendaring and scheduling, shared diaries, all the sorts of things that Microsoft's Exchange Server does. Scalix even supports Microsoft Outlook as a client, as well as the GNOME Evolution client for Linux and any POP3 or IMAP email application, plus a lightweight web client for mobile devices.
The difference being that Scalix runs on Linux and is a damn sight cheaper than Exchange - in fact, the basic 25-user "Community Edition" costs nothing. There are single-server-only Small Business (50 users, US$995) and multi-server Enterprise editions ($60 per user for at least 50 users) available too. As usual with Linux products, it's much lighter-weight, so Scalix servers can support more users on the same hardware than Exchange, and Scalix is rather more flexible about licensing, server upgrades and so on than Gates' mob.
The product is not completely open source, but a year ago, after a deal with HP, Scalix made available the source code to much of the community edition under its own Scalix Public Licence.
Xandros was formed to continue development of Corel's LinuxOS, the Canadian graphics software house's late-1990s effort to create a polished, friendly, Windows-like version of Linux. Corel LinuxOS was released shortly after Corel also bought WordPerfect from Novell. WordPerfect was once Microsoft Word's most important rival and even today still a significant player in the legal marketplace; the WordPerfect Office suite also includes Presentations and the Quattro spreadsheet and Paradox database, originally from Borland. Corel not only tarted the WordPerfect suite up and slashed the price, it even released a Linux version of the suite, although it wasn't a native Linux port but Windows code compiled against the WINE compatibility libraries.
Then a strange thing happened. First, Corel got friendly with Microsoft, including licensing Microsoft's Visual Basic for Applications to use as WordPerfect Office's macro language. Then, suddenly, it announced that it was getting out of the Linux market, killed the Linux version of the suite and dropped its LinuxOS. Bizarre coincidence, huh?
That's where Xandros came in. Its Xandros Desktop is Corel's LinuxOS, updated and refined. It's mainly aimed at businesses, including nifty features like integration into ActiveDirectory networks; it can even run certain supported big-name Windows applications.
Scalix: HP OpenMail updated
The sad demise of Corel's Linux efforts bear an eerie resemblance to HP's moves around its OpenMail system. At once time, OpenMail was pretty much Exchange's closest and most direct rival - an open groupware/messenging/calendaring system that could talk almost any protocol to anything, including Outlook on Windows. As Exchange grew increasingly popular, rather than developing its competing product, HP killed it in 2001. Despite making encouraging noises about open source, including hiring key open source leader and spokeman Bruce Perens, HP refused to open source OpenMail after its demise. The general belief in the open-source world at the time was that HP was too afraid of irritating Microsoft, not only to threaten it with a product of its own, but even to give it away.
However, it did, very quietly, sublicence it out. One derivative, Samsung Contact, was in turn killed off in 2005. The other is Scalix.
The bigger picture
Xandros is a strong, if relatively little-known, contender for the corporate Linux desktop. More recently, the company has been trying to get into the server space as well. Although its Xandros Server 2 product is a rival to such products as Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Server, Xandros tries to be more like Windows Server, with a focus on graphical admin tools, easy setup wizards and so on. It's included a bundled version of Scalix for some time.
In summary, Xandros strives to be the Linux for Windows techies with little to no specific Linux skills. It looks like Windows, as much as possible works like Windows and it integrates with Windows. It open Windows files, runs Windows apps, can join Windows networks and its products can be managed from Windows machines.
Now, its server offering, which had few major features to offer over its competition other than management tools, has a big once: an Exchange-beater. Given that Exchange is the single biggest sell that Microsoft has in the corporate market - the pairing of Exchange and Outlook is Microsoft's modern "killer app" - then a comparable rival could be a big deal.
Coming up with something to beat Exchange has been a problem for the FOSS world. Exchange Server isn't the easiest program in the world to set up and run, but there are a lot of existing techies out there who know how to do it, at least well enough to get it up and running. Exchange does have some killer features, though, from push delivery of email to straightforward linking together of multiple servers. And, of course, there's the very tight integration with Outlook, a program loved by millions. (Compare to IBM's Lotus Notes: a powerful platform to build a groupware system on, but it needs considerable skill and work to build a complete system out of it, and legions of its users hate it with a passion.)
Part of the problem lies in a lack of understanding: many Unix types see a text-mode email client such as Mutt or even Pine as being good enough, tied together over the standard protocols of SMTP, POP3 and IMAP by grizzly old Unix "Message Transport Agents" such as Sendmail or marginally more modern and less unfriendly equivalents like Exim or Postfix. For people happy with such tools and competent to build the complex server back-ends they require, the integration of Exchange and features like shared or global calendars and company-wide contacts management look like gloss: nice if you like that kind of thing, but trivial or irrelevant.
The snag being that Exchange is now absolutely key to many thousands of businesses around the world and they're not about to switch to something relatively primitive like IMAP and standalone mail clients, even if these would save a fortune in licence fees. They want an easy, instant solution that will enable their staff to communicate as seamlessly as possible, however that may be and wherever they are. They want features for workflow and collaboration: document sharing, appointment management, resource reservations and so on.
Scalix isn't the only game in town for Linux groupware: there are many projects out there, including Zimbra, phpGroupware and its spinoff eGroupWare, Buni's Meldware (derived from JBoss' Collaboration Server), Bongo (developed from Novell's Hula project, now sold off to Messaging Architects), Citadel, Skyrix's OpenGroupware and Open-Xchange.
There are several drawbacks, though. Several offerings are commercial or very immature open source. They're often complex to get up and running and many rely on their own client or a web client with connectors for Outlook being paid-for extras.
Scalix itself has been said to be complex to install and get running, and whereas there are limited free versions of both Scalix and Xandros Desktop, the company makes no bones about being a commerial outfit. The company says it will continue to offer Scalix for other Linux distributions. This probably mainly means Red Hat - with whom Scalix had a joint marketing agreement - and SUSE and their derivatives.
If it can produce a cheaper, lighter, integrated alternative to Windows Server 2007 and the 64-bit-only Exchange 2007 - or even just Microsoft's Small Business Server, at $650 (or £500) for just five users - it could be in for a big success. µ
Looks like someone pressed the wrong button on the routing machine
Half-Life 3 VR anyone
Whilst some old favourites graduate to the main browser