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Mozilla and Google — Exchange Killers At Last?

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the so-happy-together dept.

336

phase_9 writes "The latest version of Mozilla Thunderbird may still only be in beta but already the user community have started creating an extensive set of viable Exchange killers. One such example is the latest mashup between Thunderbird and Google Calendars, providing bi-directional syncing of calendar information from both the client and internet. How long will it be before open-source software can provide a complete, accessible office suite for a fraction of the cost that Microsoft current imposes?"

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336 comments

Evolution??? (0, Redundant)

Theovon (109752) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733957)

I thought Evolution already did this.

Re:Evolution??? (4, Informative)

rekkanoryo (676146) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733971)

Evolution replaces Outlook, not Exchange.

Re:Evolution??? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734765)

We run Evolution at work, and it sucks. It is not stable and does not handle even simple calendaring properly. There are more bugs in it than at a cockroach farm.

I say that and I am sorry, because I love open source, but Evolution is something only a mother can love.

Re:Evolution??? (4, Informative)

mmxsaro (187943) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733985)

For those who don't know what Evolution [wikipedia.org] is. Screenshots [gnome.org] .

Re:Evolution??? (1, Interesting)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734105)

Hmm, I have found that Evolution works better with Exchange than Outlook...

Re:Evolution??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734239)

Isn't that what OpenXchange is supposed to do?

http://www.open-xchange.com/ [open-xchange.com]

bi-directional? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18733963)

Thanks, but I'll stick to girls and Exchange.

It's not going to happen (5, Insightful)

cyberkahn (398201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18733997)

"One such example is the latest mashup between Thunderbird and Google Calendars [CC], providing bi-directional syncing of calendar information from both the client and internet. How long will it be before open-source software can provide a complete, accessible office suite for a fraction of the cost that Microsoft current impose?"

When Google builds an appliance that can host the apps locally. I am not going to put my companies email on a Google server across the Internet. Google needs to wake up and build an appliance that can be hosted locally within the bounds of a company's perimeter.

Re:It's not going to happen (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734133)

That's exactly our University's position as well. We'd LOVE to be able to provide an open calendar that can be used by staff and students alike but we won't be relying on a 3rd party to host everything. Much as I'd love to see Exchange finally gone from our campus it won't happen until we get either an appliance or software that we can host in our data center.

Re:It's not going to happen (5, Informative)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734497)

We'd LOVE to be able to provide an open calendar that can be used by staff and students alike but we won't be relying on a 3rd party to host everything. Much as I'd love to see Exchange finally gone from our campus it won't happen until we get either an appliance or software that we can host in our data center.

There's not really any particular reason that you'd have to use Google calendar to host your calendar. Sunbird and the Thunderbird/Lightning thing work with the iCal format, which you can host on any webDAV server...if you want a web-accessible component, just use a PHP Calendar that also reads iCal. That's what we do at work...Using Google just makes things a little easier.

Re:It's not going to happen (4, Insightful)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734141)

Especially with Googles willingness to turn over e-mail records to The Department of Fatherland Security and the FBI.

Re:It's not going to happen (5, Insightful)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734183)

What bothers me is that there seems to be a definite trend to try and move away from Microsoft controlled solutions to ones either controlled or assisted by Google.

Are we so sure that Google will always be nice? Do we want our online office and email to become dependant on yet another single vendor?

Ok, I don't know anyone but google who could help beat the Microsoft monopoly on office services, but if they do become the dominant player, who's to say that things won't change in the google camp? Anyone who gains power rarely likes to give it up, and is rarely happy for other people to threaten their position.

I'm short on alternatives here, but it's a concern I think a few more people should be pondering.

Re:It's not going to happen (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734243)

This is a two step process, right. It's more than simply switching from one overlord to another; the idea is to encourage competition between the two. Having two options is clearly better than just the one - not to mention that Apple is also stepping up to the plate with their iCal Server thingy in Leopard.

Your concerns likely have merit, but fortunately, if the market gets broken open, we'll be able to do better than just to choose between giants...

Re:It's not going to happen (5, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734677)

>if the market gets broken open, we'll be able to do better than just to choose between giants...

Well, we have open office, but no big migration to it. We have the entire linux os, yet windows still dominates on the server and client side. I have two concerns:

1. Even if you build it, they may not come. Someone could release an outlook/exchange replacement tomorrow and it may very well have zero-effect.

2. Why is it suddenly the goal of OSS is to defeat MS? Can't we just keep making OSS for the sake of making software? This shit is too agenda-driven for me.

3. Google is a close-source corporation that is an infamous data miner. They certainly are not open-source and have little to do with OSS other than token gestures and leveraging OSS to fight MS. Again, more agenda-driven stuff but this time its corporate agenda-driven shit.

When did everyone become a google employee? The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

Anml4ixoye (264762) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734787)

Even if you build it, they may not come. Someone could release an outlook/exchange replacement tomorrow and it may very well have zero-effect.


There's something else in that. Sure, people are buying Exchange and Outlook because of their feature set. But they also buy them for the support.

Let's say that the Thunderbird/Google/OpenOffice trifecta becomes your corporate IT standard. Now let's say you have a problem. With Google, you have a company to call, but I don't know how good their support it. Thunderbird and OpenOffice have the support of the community, which may lead to faster fixes, but may also depend on who is available when.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not an MS fanboy. But I'm seeing more and more that companies I go into choose MS solutions because it has the features they need and a face to yell at if something goes wrong. When OSS can provide the feature set *and* the unified support, it will be hard to beat.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734869)

actually, i don't know anybody who would have bough into ms because of their support. i might be in a not-large-enough-league, but that defines most of their customers.

the usual questions apply here - "when did you last call ms for technical support ?", "how fast did you receive the fix ?". note the word "technical". help with their activation/licensing and other things that greatly imrpove customer experience does not count here.

as for support with linux distros - i think you can get that for most of them, and for some you can get decent support from several vendors. and there are few that offer support and don't ship with oo.org/mozilla family.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734821)

> 2. Why is it suddenly the goal of OSS is to defeat MS? Can't we just keep making OSS for the sake of making software? This shit is too agenda-driven for me.

Because microsoft is out to make it as hard as possible to use anything other than their products. If they get their way, you won't be able to make software at all unless you work for a large corporation.

Careful now. Think this over carefully. (1)

NDPTAL85 (260093) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734857)

I respect what you are saying. But consider this if you will.... ...what you consider to be "agendas" is just a genuine desire to rid the IT land of the scourge of Microsoft. They're a destroyer of technology. Seeing as how a lot of OSS folks LOVE technology this is a sensible position to take. I find it hard to believe that Google at its worst could match Microsoft on its most benevolent day. It would require a major reworking of Google's DNA. Microsoft from the get-go has been all about locking up technology and making sure its not open. Anyone remember Bill Gate's letter to free software developers over 25 years ago?

I'm sure the agenda puts off many more than just you, but thats because most folks are 'don't rock the boat' types. Thats ok, I get it. The problem is that there really isn't a future for technology while Microsoft remains dominant. Its so disheartening for those who love technology to have to go to work and deal with Microsoft Windows and Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Internet Information Server or Microsoft Exchange.......etc. For those who don't really care about superior quality again its not a big deal for them. But there was a time when IT was about more than just "getting the job done". This is the disgust and anger that feeds the anti-Microsoft sentiment.

Google has engendered nothing like this. For the love of God YES YES YES I would love for Google and Microsoft to trade places in the marketplace. All I ask is that you MIGHTILY resist the urge that all humans have to be suspicious of anything that grows big, such as Google has. Yes they're a corporation. Yes they're in it for the money. But they manage to do it by embracing technology and providing it to a wider base of users for FREE. They can data mine every second of my life if thats all they ask in return.

Re:It's not going to happen (3, Insightful)

NMerriam (15122) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734773)

Exactly. The point is not to hand Microsoft's monopoly to Google, it's to have both Microsoft and Google fighting every day to be the most useful, most secure, easiest and lowest cost provider of any given service. Microsoft hasn't had any real reason other than pride or paranoia to make any of their office software any better than the bare minimum in over 15 years!

Remember how fierce the word processor market was in 1990? Good God, we had Wordperfect, Word, Wordstar, and AmiPro releasing competing new versions with fantastic new features every few months, selling them for ever-lower prices and offering all sorts of incentives to crossgrade and switch. Since MS gained a complete monopoly on the market, the only interesting thing that has been added was Clippy and the ribbon. That was a decade and a half of research?

Good Point (1)

cyberkahn (398201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734263)

"What bothers me is that there seems to be a definite trend to try and move away from Microsoft controlled solutions to ones either controlled or assisted by Google."

You raise a good point and I agree. I was just directly addressing the idea of Google/Thunderbird being an Exchange replacement that the poster seemed to be inferring.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734405)

Well, one major difference is Google's continuing commitment to openness. They let you get your data. You can take your business elsewhere. Microsoft is notorious for trying to lock their customers into their products and services. Google doesn't do that.

Re:It's not going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734515)

Yet.

At one time, long ago, Microsoft was good to developers, their OS was cheap, and they promoted open standards (namely the x86 platform).

Don't get me wrong, google hasn't shown any of the "bad signs", but don't give 'em a free pass. And a move towards OS and platform independence is a good thing for everyone (hence my support for 'em).

But twenty years from now it wouldn't surprise me if the 'o' characters in "Google" were replaced with Borg spheres.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

Shemmie (909181) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734571)

Microsoft is notorious for trying to lock their customers into their products and services. Google doesn't do that.

... but the problem is, with them hosting it, they can take it away - any time they want.

I'm a big Google fan, I use a lot of their applications - but I fully appreciate the tables can change at any time.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

partenon (749418) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734865)

I'm sorry, but this is FUD :-)

There's a thing called "SLA", specially for commercial services. Your company won't use Google services for free. You'll pay a fee and will get the warranty it will work xx% of the time. So, Google can't simply "take your data away".

Re:It's not going to happen (2, Insightful)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734735)

>They let you get your data.

How generous! They also sift through it and host it. And if they decide to stop hosting it, guess what? I dont have data. Even the old exchange 5.5 server in the basement is owned by the company and we can pull data from it whenever we want. Even without an internet connection. And no one is data mining it for 'adsense' or whatever google is doing. And when I wipe it, it stays wiped.

Heck, when I delete from a hosted service (doesnt matter who) I have no idea if its actually deleted or who has access to this data. Or if they will defend me or do anything if someone complains or if law-enforcement gets involved.

This wholesale giving of power and data to google just to get away from MS, its something of an ill-informed fantasy. No surprise companies arent running to have google control all their data. Better interfaces and geek hate of MS aren't exactly the answer either.

Google can't become Microsoft (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734407)

Are we so sure that Google will always be nice?

No, but we don't have to.

Do we want our online office and email to become dependant on yet another single vendor?

The problem with Microsoft has not been that they have been a single monopolistic vendor, the problem has been that once you are on Microsoft platforms, the cost of switching away is very high. A secondary problem has been that many people simply don't like the way Microsoft's products work.

So far, Google has been very open: you can import and export your mail fully, and if you register a domain through some registrar, you can easily switch E-mail providers. As soon as Google becomes monopolistic, there will be howls of protest and you will know about it and have enough time to pick a different company.

Of course, there is some risk that Google becomes so predominant that there will simply be no alternatives to switch to, but I don't see that happening. That has never even happened with Microsoft; there have always been alternatives, it's simply been too costly to switch.

So, my policy is to use Google for the time being, but watch them closely and leave if either something better comes along, or if it ever looks like they are going to make it hard to leave.

Re:Google can't become Microsoft (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734555)

I certainly use a lot of Google's services, and I like them. My email is Gmail, and my open source project is hosted on google code (because I got truly sick of the constant issues on sourceforge). Both those things are not too hard for me to change as an individual.

I like their philosophy too, I'm just wondering if it will be ever thus. In my experience, a little caution goes a long way. Cynicism can be a useful tool at times.

My plan is to continue using Google products for quite some time. I'm wary of over dependence though, so I won't be getting myself into a position where I would find it hard to move away. I already did that with Office once, until I discovered OpenOffice and was able finally to break my addiction...

Re:Google can't become Microsoft (1)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734611)

the cost of switching away is very high.
The cost of upgrading when the Micro$oft EOLs their software is also high, what with the requirement for a server CAL PLUS an Exchange CAL plus the client software plus the server software.
I've never liked the whole you-must-buy-a-separate-access license-for-every-user model. as far as I am concerned, once I buy a server, what I do with it is my business, and whether I have 5 people connecting to it or 500, it's none of their business!
I was looking forward to the release of Leopard Server, because it contains a collaborative calendaring function (with unlimited client licensing included) but now they've pushed it back in favour of some silly phone that will only be availible through a cell provider that I detest. Oh well...

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734455)

Choice is never a bad thing.. soon we will have MS Office, Google Office, and Open Office.

Re:It's not going to happen (3, Insightful)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734231)

This has been the attitude in IT for years, however, what advantage do you have by hosting it in house? Most advantages I hear these days are perceived advantages such as data integrity and security that aren't fully true. Most small and medium sized businesses security and data integrity are on a scale that could never compete with Google. Google probably has a given email stored at dozens of locations around the world and can be accessed at any time with any number of simultaneous disasters occurring. In an SMB environment the server can crash because someone tripped over the cord. It's much more fragile and to get to the level of redundancy Google can provide would cost you more than you could ever afford.

Re:It's not going to happen (5, Insightful)

contrapunctus (907549) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734335)

But if *your* connection to the world is not working you won't get access to you email on Google's servers.
I'm not advocating putting everything local, but it's difficult for one person to foresee the needs of many others.

Re:It's not going to happen (2, Insightful)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734601)

Keeping it local reduces your chances of becoming a victim of DoJ fishing expeditions. Your lawyers are more likely to fight for your rights than Google's.

your business E-mail is an open book anyway (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734447)

I am not going to put my companies email on a Google server across the Internet.

Why not? Your company's email already travels openly and usually unencrypted across the Internet, ready for dozens of hosts to capture and analyze. Furthermore, data retention and auditing guidelines mean that your corporate email has to be archived and accessible to authorities anyway.

I can see choosing not to use Google (or Yahoo or Hotmail) for personal or private E-mail, but for hosted corporate E-mail, I see little reason not to.

Of course, most people tend to think of it the other way around, but I think they're getting it backwards.

Re:your business E-mail is an open book anyway (2, Insightful)

gutnor (872759) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734665)

Company mail system is also, believe it or not, used to send mail within the same company/building.
Strangely the most confidential documents such as analysis, internal white papers, usecase for next product ... even rarely travel outside.

Also, there is a difference between having the risk of being intercepted by a third party than storing your mail directly on the third party servers. Especially when the third party tells you upfront that they do content analysis of your mail.

The fact that most people get it backward is that they don't care if anybody else read the mail about their last vacations. However company don't like their trade secret being hosted by their competitor.

Re:It's not going to happen (2, Interesting)

arivanov (12034) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734449)

Since when is google calendar and the other google apps lot open source?

There is no open source exchange killer in the offering here. As far as Outlook killers are concerned, Mozilla has been an Outlook killer for a very long time. Even with something as lame as courier Mozilla can easily work over 12G+ IMAP mail folders. Outlook (prior to 2003) caused massive corruption crashes and loss on anything above 2G (after the local cache exceeded 1G).

As far as the usual argument about "want it local", nope I do not. Provided that:

1. Google can offer compliance and logging features for a relatively strict regulatory framework including blanket logging of all emails per domain and retention as per user specified policy. I am aware that exchange does not do that, but there is enough third party software for it (as well as for exim, sendmail, etc). Before that google + mozilla are worthless for corporate use.

2. Gooogle can offer client side certificate based authentication and ssl-enabled protocols for everything. I do not mind google maintaining the CA for that as long as they can.

3. Backup requirements which correspond to 1.

And so on and so fourth. If all of these are complied to, is it local or remote is largely irrelevant. Google has enough datacenters to ensure that the latency is low. In fact, it better be remote. One less item to worry during disaster recovery.

Re:It's not going to happen (2, Insightful)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734777)

As far as Outlook killers are concerned, Mozilla has been an Outlook killer for a very long time. Even with something as lame as courier Mozilla can easily work over 12G+ IMAP mail folders. Outlook (prior to 2003) caused massive corruption crashes and loss on anything above 2G (after the local cache exceeded 1G).

When people talk about "Outlook killers" they're not thinking about e-mail -- Outlook is universally recognized to be a crappy e-mail client (even by Microsoft's own developers [msdn.com] ). What they're thinking of instead is the groupware component -- shared calendars, meeting scheduling, task tracking, and so on.

As you note, there are tons of FOSS projects out there that convincingly work better as e-mail clients, but there has never been anything that comes close to it as a groupware client, and that functionality is what ties lots of businesses to Exchange/Outlook.

Re:It's not going to happen (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734473)

I am not going to put my companies email on a Google server across the Internet.

Although, I would like to point out that when some companies loose internet access they are unable to function properly even if they have internal email servers.

Sure you can send emails to coworkers... But doesn't do you much good sending emails to customers.

Of course you could co-locate your exchange servers off site, but again... Same problem but in reverse.

If it is a matter of trust that you suspect Google will go through your emails, then make them sign an NDA just like you would any ISP that you co-locate or host with.

Still what bothers me is that many companies can only dole out 100mb to their workers whearas, users will often by pass the feature by forwarding to a Gmail account. Security and connectivity head aches aside... Give your workers more space.

$PRODUCT killers is a continuum (1, Interesting)

davidwr (791652) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734019)

One end of the continuum, I'll call "type 1:"
Replaces important functionality of the product

The other end, I'll call "type 2:"
Replaces the product

Type 2 means among other things your users won't notice any functional differences and the new product can read and write the old product's files perfectly and/or there is a perfect two-way file-translator available.

Type 2 is rare unless the product is designed around an open specification. For example, some implementations of "gzip" or "cat" are type-2 replacements of each other.

My issue (3, Insightful)

C_Kode (102755) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734023)

I used to hate webmail. Thunderbird (Netscape mail before this) was a staple on my desktop. Today, I hate mail apps. Why have a mail app using resources when your browser is open already and webmail (today) works great already?

I have Outlook/Exchange at work, but I use Firefox/OWA instead.

If my browser is open, I prefer to use it.

Re:My issue (4, Informative)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734175)

The idea of replacing Exchange is not targeted at home users, it's targeted at companies.

OWA (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734613)

So you are using exchange at home too, and proving that its hard to seriously consider something else as a 'killer'.

Re:My issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734687)

Multiple email accounts.

Re:My issue (1)

devnulljapan (316200) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734693)

Shhh, Karl [bbc.co.uk] , don't tell them any more than they already know [guardian.co.uk] .

Well... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734025)

I for one welcome our new spellcheck-less Exhchange overlords.

why just aim for exchange? (3, Insightful)

ushering05401 (1086795) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734027)

next generation PIM suites should be the goal, which exchange falls far short of.

is anyone from the Chandler (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandler_(PIM)) team looking into integrating efforts here?

nope (4, Interesting)

dAzED1 (33635) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734039)

Until my boss can set appointments on my calendar for me, and until anyone in my company can view my calendar (but not anyone outside my company...), I'll still (unfortunately) be forced to have a PC running whose only purpose is to run outlook.

Agreed, Google needs an in-house version (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734091)

Yes, until Google offers an in-house version of their tools (a server that sits at my office) my business won't move to Google. Despite how much I like it.
I need to know that my businesses information is confidential. And, by having it sit at Google just it isn't.
Plus, even with businesses where confidentially is desired but optional, you have plenty of businesses where it is not optional but legal required (lawyer, doctor, etc.). Legally they don't even have the option of using Google's tools.

Re:Agreed, Google needs an in-house version (1)

perp (114928) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734649)

The people who need in-house shared calendaring might also look at Open-Exchange [open-xchange.com] . They have both a commercial version and a community version.

We are deploying it at work and it does not suck at all.

Re:nope (4, Insightful)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734229)

Doesn't google for domains (Google Apps) allow for exactly this type of thing....?

There ARE options, and it's not openXchange (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734275)

You should look at Zimbra. They are a new company working on solving just this problem. It's pretty damn good too. www.zimbra.com We've installed and tested it and with the ability to support both pop and webmail clients, it's a pretty good choice. The calendaring is also very close to exchange and it even syncs with iCal and other non-MS calendaring systems. They have some huge Fortune 500 clients too... I think they have some extensive demos on their website.

Re:nope (1)

MeNeXT (200840) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734631)

if that's all you need then yes it can.

Real Problem (-1, Redundant)

fooqwah (1088335) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734051)

It's not about when will Google/Mozilla replace Microsoft Office in usability. That's already happened.

The question is when the average Office user will realize it.

Re:Real Problem (2, Insightful)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734083)

Um... really. I think an enormous percentage of those using the full Microsoft Office suite (with Exchange etc) would disagree with you.

There's nothing out there that can match the usability of Exchange/Office. It's a sad reality, because Exchange/Office is fucking expensive.

Re:Real Problem (1)

not already in use (972294) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734271)

I've never noticed anything in outlook/exchange that makes it noticeably superior to up and coming alternatives. The only thing keeping Outlook in the picture is it's ties to the rest of the Office suite, noticeably Excel and Word, for which there are no viable replacements at this time for serious users (please don't say Open Office, it's like saying The Gimp is a viable alternative to Photoshop for professionals).

Re:Real Problem (1)

Compholio (770966) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734397)

... noticeably Excel and Word, for which there are no viable replacements at this time for serious users (please don't say Open Office, it's like saying The Gimp is a viable alternative to Photoshop for professionals).
LaTeX my friend, saying Word is a viable replacement for serious professionals is laughable.

Re:Real Problem (1)

rockmuelle (575982) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734731)

"LaTeX my friend, saying Word is a viable replacement for serious professionals is laughable"

As someone who's lived in both LaTeX and Word land, I call BS (8 years extensive LaTeX usage and currently 120 pages into a CS dissertaion in LaTeX, 8 mutually exclusive years of Word usage). LaTeX is not viable for serious professionals, no matter how often people call it a professional type-setting system.

LaTeX is about the most backwards way of producing documents there is. Compile your document before you can see the layout? What is this, 1980? Arcane, verbose commands to do simple things (text{it,bf,etc})? Might be fun for people just learning to code, but come on, the verbosity gets old fast. Build errors more difficult to debug than C++ template meta-programs? Yikes.

Yes, LaTeX does have some nice features - separate files for different parts of the document are nice as are the exensive macro expansion features - but are they really worth the hassle of dealing with the system? I use LaTeX over Word for one reason: Word can't number references, figures, and tables correctly. Unfortunately, for academic writing in CS (where they insist on [1] instead of [Smith 1994]), this is a deal breaker.

Of course, in using LaTeX, I've given up the ability to have precise control over the location of figures in my documents (trivial in Word, barely possible and not worth the effort in LaTeX). I've resigned myself to the fact that at some point during document preparation, something will go horribly wrong and I will lose half a day trying to debug LaTeX. I've accepted the fact that conference organizers will continue to give me broken style files and then complain when the formatting is a little off. I know that if anyone needs an editable copy of my document, I will have to spend a day converting it to Word. And so on...

I would happily pay for a good word processor that worked almost like Word, but got the numbering and modularity features correct (hint: Framemaker before Adobe killed it). Open Source has had at least 20 years to get this right with LaTeX (and no, none of the WYSYWIG LaTeX tools cut it) and just keeps happilly saying LaTeX is professional without ever bothering to evolve it out of the 1980s.

-Chris

Re:Real Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734493)

Yer nothing like loosing yr emails soo often...

Re:Real Problem (1)

rucs_hack (784150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734297)

It's not about when will Google/Mozilla replace Microsoft Office in usability. That's already happened.

It has? Did I miss a memo or something?

As interesting and featureful as the alternatives to MsOffice are, they are nowhere near gaining sufficient market penetration for the average office user to be using them instead of MsOffice. I think that'll take a teensy bit longer.

And the online google spreadsheet/office package is a bit too basic just yet for mainstream use. You can't even embed charts in the spreadsheet, a bit of a drawback that.

I honestly think Microsoft will start handing out free cut down versions of MsOffice (as in like office 97 level of functionality) if OpenOffice/Google and co become a serious threat. No doubt with some seriously gay restrictions, like how many documents can be open, number of fonts or something.

no bloody chance (5, Informative)

lambent (234167) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734069)

Speaking as someone at a company who tried very hard for a very long time to 'replace' exchange with OSS, i'll tell you it can't be done. Any kind of mix&match of software and jerryrigging of protocols may, kinda, sorta come close to offering approximately the same sort of capabilities of exchange. However, there will be caveats and gotchas, and all sorts of limitations that joe-users won't put up with or understand having to put up with.

Remember, you have exchange for the company environment, not for just your dev team. And as hard as it may be to admit, exhange+outlook actually functions very well when it's set up and admin'd properly.

One other thing: i know the whole setup is expensive, in terms of hardware and software and licenses. One can argue, that if your company can't afford the outlay for a working exchange environment, your company doesn't need it, and it would probably be a waste of time trying to replicate its features. So call a spade a spade; say you want OSS shared calendars, tasks, e-mail, whatever. But that alone is certainly NOT an exchange replacement.

Re:no bloody chance (0, Redundant)

reynolds_john (242657) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734457)

"One can argue, that if your company can't afford the outlay for a working exchange environment, your company doesn't need it, and it would probably be a waste of time trying to replicate its features."

I don't know which to choose from....

Description of Composition:http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallaci es/composition.html [nizkor.org]
or
Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/post-hoc. html [nizkor.org]
or
Questionable Cause:: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/questiona ble-cause.html [nizkor.org]

or maybe even slipperly slope - so many to choose from.

Re:no bloody chance (3, Interesting)

rtechie (244489) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734543)

One can argue, that if your company can't afford the outlay for a working exchange environment, your company doesn't need it, and it would probably be a waste of time trying to replicate its features.
Until he's proven wrong, this statement is true. There ARE NO free groupware solutions, there never have been, and I'm starting to think there never will be. The support costs are simply to brutal and impassible an issue for the open source community to deal with.

In the distant future there may be a commercial groupware solution based on open source, but it will almost certainly cost as much or more than Exchange.

Close, but no cigar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734077)

They will never match all the features [slashdot.org] in Microsoft's Office suite.

Please don't flame me ... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734081)

Once upon a time Lotus Notes was available for Unix. It did all the stuff tfa talks about. (I realize that lots of people don't like Lotus Notes and thereby I don my flameproof suit) What would it take to get IBM to open source Lotus Notes? I haven't used it in ten years but my rememberance of it was that it could do amazing things. Certainly if it were open sourced we wouldn't have to worry about whether Mozilla could produce something with the capabilities of Microsoft's products.

Notes (3, Interesting)

acvh (120205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734193)

If my employer is any indication, Notes is still a big source of revenue for IBM, so I can't see them giving that up. My guess is that there is also a good deal of code in there with various copyright owners.

And of course, Lotus Notes is what software would be like if it was written by Satan.

Re:Notes (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734593)

And of course, Lotus Notes is what software would be like if it was written by Satan.

I hope you are kidding. Because everything else made by Satan for the temptation of Man, (sex, drugs, gambling, and money) has the effect of creating euphoria for its users and profit to its distributors. I doubt Notes come even close to lets say gambling, never mind sex and drugs.

Re:Notes (2, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734661)

The problem with Notes is one of those inexplicable corporate culture things where the same blind spot keeps hitting the company over and over and the company never seems to learn. In this cases it is Lotus' seeming inability to provide an attractive and consistent user interface.

On the other hand, at least the older versions of Notes did a number of things very well (I can't speak to newer ones), including security. However this required more skilled and educated administration. The MS pitch throughout the early to mid 90s on the server end was that you didn't need the kind of expertise you needed to run Notes to run Exchange, or to run Novell to run NT server. The rest, as they say, is history.

Re:Please don't flame me ... (1)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734891)

You're kind of thinking of Chandler [osafoundation.org] , which could grow into an OpenSource Notes. IBM still makes real money with Notes [ibm.com] , so they're not going to Open-Source it, but they will happily sell you an installation and a consultant in a blue suit.

Notes vs. Exchange is kind of one of those VI vs Emacs things; binary opinions only, and users are all willing to carry a sharpened Pike to defend their choice. What we really need is the email equivalent of the introduction of gunpowder to make this argument irrelevant.

Huh? (-1, Flamebait)

porkThreeWays (895269) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734101)

How long will it be before open-source software can provide a complete, accessible office suite for a fraction of the cost that Microsoft current impose?

It already can and has been able to for years. Its mostly been stubborn users and FUD fed to decision makers that has hindered its adoption. What's happening now is all these applications are becoming so vastly superior to MS's offerings you almost look foolish still using it. Firefox 2 is years ahead of IE7. Firefox 3 will be light years ahead. Google's offerings are also light years ahead. OpenOffice as a word processor is about on par with MS Office, however the database functionality and programming language integration is leaps and bounds ahead of anything MS has.

There are just so many products out there vastly superior to MS offerings it's disappointing this FUD still goes on.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734309)

>Firefox 2 is years ahead of IE7. Firefox 3 will be light years ahead
Um, Dude - a light year isn't a measure of time.

Re:Huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734527)

Let me know when the Openoffice.org spreadsheet starts to approach parity with Excel. OO.org Calc 2.2 is far behind Excel 2003 (and I acknowledge that that isn't an especially high standard).

Google is open source? (5, Interesting)

djlurch (781932) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734111)

Although much beloved here at Slashdot, Google is not open source. They are a private, for-profit corporation that happens to have some free APIs. Putting Google and Mozilla in the same category is disingenuous.

Re:Google is open source? (2, Insightful)

The Bubble (827153) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734435)

Google may not be an open source company like Mozilla, but they have historically been much more supportive to open efforts. Open API's are only one example. Think about Google's summer of code, or the open-sourcing of the Google Web Toolkit.

Re:Google is open source? (1)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734463)

Putting Google and Mozilla in the same category is disingenuous.

My first thoughts too. At first I though "Wha? I can download google calendar and host it locally and its OSS?" Then I realized the editors are just being uninformed fanboys.

Re:Google is open source? (3, Insightful)

Paradigm_Complex (968558) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734595)

Google is an advertising company. So long as it gets people to go to Google's sites and (theoretically) view the ads, its feasible for Google to do it. If open-sourcing their work will increase the people who use it (and see ads) - why the bloody hell not? There's more ways of making money then locking your customers out of the full use of the product they purchased.

Won't happen (1)

thanksforthecrabs (1037698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734115)

...unless those apps are going to also integrate with MS Office.

Exchange Killers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734167)

This isn't a threat to Exhange by no stretch of the imagination. Once Exchange is entrenched into an environment; you better have clients that can connect to the server. If you want to take Exchange down; you need clients that can connect and share calendars on and off of Exchange.

Business won't outsource their Exchange functionality to a free service. Perhaps this may fly with Google calendar; but somehow I just don't see it.

This is all very clever and wonderful (2, Interesting)

goldcd (587052) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734179)

but until stuff syncs with Outlook, it has no change of defeating it.
I'm not a huge fan of MS, but it's nice that external people can send you stuff (as they use Outlook) and it'll appear in your company outlook calendar.
Sooo if you want to defeat Outlook you've got to produce something that replicates outlook's functionality. I don't care what the other company is using, I just care it works with my outlook (or vica-versa).
Basically my point is we live in an Outlook eco-system. If you want to displace it, then you can't just ignore it and do your own thing (e.g. Mozilla+Google).

Re:This is all very clever and wonderful (3, Informative)

Blahbooboo3 (874492) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734321)

but until stuff syncs with Outlook, it has no change of defeating it.
I think this is what you are looking for? http://remotecalendars.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] Provides a bi-directional sync from Outlook to Google Calendar.

Re:This is all very clever and wonderful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18734387)

Gmail already accept outlook meeting request

Re:This is all very clever and wonderful (1)

swimmar132 (302744) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734541)

What? So someone sends you an invite email to thunderbird, it gets added to your mozilla calendar and gets synced with google calendar. What's the problem there?

Thunderbird? Bwahahaah dont think so! (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734211)

I give it a chance, then eventually god fed up with it. I went back to Office. ActiveSync is a MUST.

Alternative open-source solution (3, Interesting)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734299)

As a few have already stated, this is a good idea for a single user, but it may be tricky for collaborative scheduling.

Another opensource solution that has piqued my interest is zimbra [zimbra.com] , which includes collaborative e-mail, scheduling and many other groupware functions. All the functions work through a web interface as well, but they're now developing zdesktop [zimbra.com] to allow on- and off-line sync/viewing of e-mail, scheduling as so on. It's in alpha, however. There are also programs to use on your mobile [zimbra.com] devices.

I haven't used this system myself, but I'd be interested in any thoughts from sys admins that have successfully (or unsuccessfully) implemented this.

Re:Alternative open-source solution (1)

digitalderbs (718388) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734365)

Zimbra also features modules that sync with zimbra servers for outlook and Apple desktop [zimbra.com] as well as Evolution [zimbra.com] syncing. Full compatibility with these would of course be necessary for any "Exchange killer."

Exchange-replacements (1)

AlXtreme (223728) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734333)

I've for years been eying the open source Exchange replacement projects. The main problem is MAPI-support for Outlook.

Products like Zimbra [zimbra.com] and Scalix [scalix.com] are mostly open source, but their MAPI/Outlook components aren't. OSER [sourceforge.net] was a grass-roots project aimed at developing open source MAPI-support, but has recently been put on hold by the developers.

It might be fair to say that if you have clients using Outlook you shouldn't complain about coughing up cash to have them connect to your exchange-replacement, but after all these years there (to my knowledge) isn't a fully-compatible server-side open source Exchange replacement.

Mozilla and Google? Yeah right. Tell that to a manager with 500 Outlook-using drones.

Re:Exchange-replacements (1)

djradon (105400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734563)

I'm no drone. I'm a teacher. Outlook syncs with my Windows Mobile phone. I love having a programmable computer with an abundance of free software for a phone. (If it's true that Apple's phone isn't programmable, I would never buy it). Sure Windows Mobile has problems, but life's to short to wait for a linux phone. I operate my own SmarterMail server. The Outlook plugin [smartertools.com] syncs contacts/tasks/calendaring with a very usable web application. The commercial version is affordable, and they offer a free version: "SmarterMail Free Edition is limited to 10 email users on a single domain, and includes all the functionality of SmarterMail Enterprise Edition. Unlike trial software or shareware, free SmarterTools products contain no time limits, popup nag screens, or functionality limits (besides the user limit mentioned above). "

Not Yet (0, Flamebait)

Killer Eye (3711) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734345)

20 years have proven that simply having better products is not enough.

Remember: the idiots are still in charge of I.T.

I've seen this time and again. I.T. groups in many, many, many companies are filled with Microsoft apologists who simply don't go to the effort to even find better solutions, much less adopt them. They just buy Microsoft, keep their jobs (even getting bonuses), and continue to siphon far too much money for computer products.

You need two things to dethrone Microsoft. First, open-minded people in charge of I.T. who genuinely work at finding better solutions for the price. Second, you must have management willing to accept risk and not fire the open-minded people if their first transition away from Microsoft doesn't go as planned.

Re:Not Yet (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734779)

Why should management accept risk in a support function?

It's one thing to say that you bet the company's future on a revolutionary new widget, and lost. It is another thing to have your company drown in disorganization because it can't make its internal systems work.

The name of the game is good enough, cheap enough, safe enough. If there weren't a safe enough component to the decision making, we'd have had extensive adoption of Linux desktop years ago. For better or worse, you have to chart a low risk path towards new technologies. The ideal thing is to have a set of new killer applications, and suddenly have people wake up and find that they have a parallel infrastructure they are equally or to a greater degree committed to. That's how the PC/server combination supplanted the minicomputer. It's how Linux servers gained widespread acceptance in Internet based roles.

Otherwise, optimization is not worth the risk. Very few people think that Microsoft is the best solution. But plenty of people think it is the safest. And if it is good enough and cheap enough (if not optimally good or optimally cheap), then you're going to have to have a better argument at hand than you think management is being a bunch of spineless stick-in-the-muds.

Re:Not Yet (1)

Bito (1012201) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734827)

It is true that the best products are not always the most widely adopted. However, to blame those in charge of IT is a little short sighted and naive. The choices that IT has to make are often more than just technical. Sometimes the best 'technical' solution does'nt make the most business sense.

The purchase cost of any software is just one part of the total cost involved. The costs incurred during the entire product lifecycle are all important. These 'post-purchase' costs are often several times more than the purchase cost. That means the products that are easier to deploy and maintain often mitigate some or all of the purchase costs as opposed to free solutions.

What is really needed to 'dethrone' Microsoft are products that are just as mind-numblingly easy to setup and deploy for businesses. Most don't have the skills or time it takes to configure many open source products. Good documentation and user community support are critical for any product to be accepted by users.

As for the second point, it does'nt matter what product is deployed, if it does'nt go as planned management should have an issue with it.

Possible as of... (1)

Shabadage (1037824) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734377)

About 5 years ago. While it's true that there's no one stop solution, with some poking around sourceforge you can easily replace every app that MS Office comes with (Save for PowerPoint; there may be some PP alternatives out there, but I never use PP anymore, Flash is much more effective for presentations at the expense of it taking slightly longer). Open source stuff is a little bit harder to come by than just normal freeware, though if you keep on digging you'll eventually hit gold.

Exchange (1)

heffrey (229704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734393)

Does anyone here have the first clue what Exchange actually does?

No, I thought not.

Sunbird (1)

omeomi (675045) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734451)

Why use Thunderbird instead of Mozilla Sunbird? I use Sunbird all the time...I really like it.

GTDmail (1)

nanosquid (1074949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734477)

I find GTDmail (www.gtdmail.com) a far more interesting mash-up, giving me functionality that I currently can't easily get in Thunderbird.

Maybe TB 2.0 will have sufficient tagging capabilities, but what TB really needs is far easier user-scripting and a built-in script editor. You know, like Greasemonkey only better and specifically for Thunderbird.

Thuderbird's calendar has a way to go (4, Insightful)

yppiz (574466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734499)

TFA is a bit premature. Thunderbird's calendar has quite a way to go before it'll become a serious threat to anything. This is nothing against Thunderbird (it's been my mail client for years) or the calendar project, just an observation that they are pretty early along with calendars and the UI still doesn't fit really well with the application.

--Pat

Mozilla + Google (1)

CmdrPorno (115048) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734501)

I shall call it Mozoogle. Or Googzilla.

Make a clone instead (2, Insightful)

jihadist (1088389) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734511)

If you want to kill Exchange as a product, you have to make a clone, not a replacement. This is how we got $500 PCs only a few years after a time when three manufacturers sold them for $2500 each. First they made a clone, and then they branched out. If you make an Exchange clone, Microsoft should welcome the competition as it's good for the economy as a whole. I'm not anti-Microsoft by any stretch, but I like the "people power" of Open Source Software and the added security, comfort and conscience-free use it brings.

Did I miss something? (3, Insightful)

uhlume (597871) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734577)

How long will it be before open-source software can provide a complete, accessible office suite for a fraction of the cost that Microsoft current impose?


Since when is Google "open source"?

Open-source friendly, undoubtedly. Less secretive about (some of their) proprietary code than Microsoft? Sure, though that's not saying much. There's only so much secrecy obfuscated Javascript can buy you, so it's not as if they had much choice. Still, kudos to them for not only accepting that fact, but providing official APIs to some of their services.

But "open source"? Show me where I can go to submit patches to any of their core products, and maybe then I'll agree to that term. Until then, Thunderbird + Google Calendars is no more "open source" than Evolution + Exchange.

When? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734597)

I doubt it will ever really happen.

There is too much integration ( vendor lockin? ) of exchange ( via outlook ) with the rest of office ( and AD, and document DRM ) for a 3rd party to ever be considered a 'killer'.

Will OSS choices be an option for a small market share that can do without the integration, sure, but not a 'killer' by any stretch of the imagination.

I'd settle for a MM killer (1)

CBob (722532) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734609)

As in Meeting Maker...Ick.

We schedule our data center jobs etc in MM 7.5 using the colored labels to show who did what. The 15 min intervals & large-ish daily/multi day view keep the app still in use. Add in the goofy MM formatted files & we seem to be stuck using an app that's meant for lightweight use in totally different market.

The ver 8.+ vers for MM choke on 100+ events a day & when they're scheduled to "continue forever" it makes life interesting if you try to replace the app :-(

Outlook's add-in products are important to me (1)

Doug Jensen (691112) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734619)

There is a long list of add-in products for Outlook (e.g., at slipstick) that are invaluable for me. And there are important (to me) applications that know how to work with Outlook but not other email clients. So despite all its warts, Outlook is here to stay on my PC's.

Plenty of solutions, not enough adopters (2, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 7 years ago | (#18734905)

There are great solutions out there for cheap or for free that replace a lot of functionality of Outlook/Exchange. The problem is, compatibility to migrate and user adoption.

The compatibility to migrate is: you can't just copy the data from one server to another because of it's proprietary layout. It was a bad choice in the past and it's now rearing it's ugly head.

The other, user adoption is simple: people don't like change. I've been fired before because I implemented changes in security according to SoX! That company still is not SoX compliant and won't be for a long time, just because the policy changes (disabling auto-login on workstations, locking up after the workday, separating and securing financially sensitive data) are not according to what users want. And it's not the end-user drones, they will accept ANY change, it's the middle-management, people that have been there for 30+ years, micromanaging 10 people, and don't want to change because that would imply that they will actually have to manage something.

I have my personal e-mail and calendar on IMAP, have done it for years. It works on my Mac, Windows, Linux and it works on any system I come. I just point my mailbox to the server and point my calendar to another IMAP folder. Most clients support iCal (Outlook, SharePoint etc. also use iCal, just the wrapper to store it and server-client communication is proprietary). I have implemented similar solutions and it all works, they have shared calendars, e-mail and all the works you can get from Exchange it's open so they can change systems whenever they want, it's cheaper than Exchange and requires less resources.
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