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Network Solutions & Open-Xchange to offer Hosted SMB E-mail and Groupware

Network Solutions, best known for being the grand-daddy of domain name companies is partnering up with German open-source e-mail and groupware company Open-Xchange to offer a hosted email and groupware SaaS (Software as a Service) offering for SMBs (small-to-medium sized businesses). The target? Customers who want a more affordable solution than Microsoft Exchange.

While Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) long ago moved into the Web hosting business, in addition to its bread-and-butter domain business, this joint offering with Open-Xchange marks its biggest step into both e-mail service offerings and open source. Network Solutions has offered POP and Web e-mail services in the past along with Symantec Brightmail anti-virus and spam protection.

Now, with Open-Xchange services, NSI can offer full SMB mail services. For example, according to an Open-Xchange representative, Outlook users will be able to use all their e-mail client’s functionality even without a Microsoft Exchange back-end.

In addition, in the near future, NSI will offer Open-Xchange’s Web-based personal information management client as an option. Essentially, this will give users a personalized Webmail portal for their email, calendaring, contact and task management. A version of this portal will also become the default interface for NSI’s existing Webmail users.

Once this offering is in place, users will be able to customize it with Web applets that use the Netvibes Universal Widget API. This is an open standard, not open source, API that Netvibes claims is compatible with the programs from Web 2.0 offerings from iGoogle, Windows Vista, Mac OS X, iPhone and others. For users, the important point it is that it should make it easy to incorporate RSS feeds, local weather forecasts, local news, videos and so on into their individual NSI Open-Xchange portal.

In a statement, NSI’s director of product development Bill Jolly said, Integrating Open Xchange into our e-mail and hosting platform will provide our customers with enterprise level e-mail and collaboration services at price small businesses can afford. This solution will provide small businesses with access to the functionality that large businesses enjoy today. Our customers will have the ability easily make and receive meeting requests, share calendars, share documents and schedule resources using a state of the art e-mail interface.”

For Open-Xchange, this move is a giant step forward into becoming the open-source e-mail and groupware SaaS for ISPs and Web hosting companies. While Open-Xchange is still interested in sales directly to companies, its primary focus has become sells to hosting businesses and data centers.

Pricing for the NSI offering has not yet been announced.

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