Thunderbird's Big Lift - InformationWeek

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5/13/2005
01:40 PM
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Thunderbird's Big Lift

Mozilla adds calendaring and security features to its open-source E-mail client

By the end of the year, Mozilla's open-source Thunderbird E-mail client will be ready to challenge Outlook on the business desktop. That's when Thunderbird should get a calendar.

"Calendaring is probably the biggest piece that we're missing when it comes to competing with Outlook in the enterprise space," says Scott MacGregor, lead engineer for Thunderbird. The calendaring project, called Lightning, is an "extension that you can bundle with Thunderbird to make an enterprise-level application suite."

There are other calendar projects in the works as well, including Mozilla Calendar and Sunbird. The former is a calendar extension that uses the open iCal standard, the latter a standalone calendar application. Lightning should be more tightly integrated than these other calendar options.

Upcoming features in Thunderbird should enhance its reputation for security. For the tentative July release of Thunderbird 1.1, MacGregor says, "the biggest thing we're focusing on is adding phishing-detection support."

Thunderbird will flag suspected scam E-mail in a status bar. If the link is clicked, a warning will pop up. Administrators also can set it to delete E-mail attachments or store them remotely on another server, much like the E-mail program Eudora does, he says.

Despite nearly 7 million downloads since its 1.0 release in December, Thunderbird remains underrepresented on business desktops. MacGregor hopes that will change. "A little over a year ago, we started our first big enterprise deployment," he says. "I'm not allowed to give you the name. But they're a Fortune 100 company, about 45,000 seats, and they actually rolled out Thunderbird last August before we even reached 1.0, they were so excited about it."

Thunderbird's enterprise ambitions can be seen in tools such as its Mission Control Desktop, which lets administrators control desktop installations remotely. Administrators can set Thunderbird to automatically download default account-configuration information, preference settings, and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol settings to ease management of large deployments.

A lot of universities have been interested in Thunderbird, MacGregor says. Matthew Gee, associate di- rector of IT for New York University's Stern School of Business, says the fact that Thunderbird is free was the most important consideration, more so than its security features.

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