Start-up Zimbra takes Web e-mail offline

Software company's Zimbra Desktop uses Ajax and a local database to let people use Web mail both online and offline.

E-mail software company Zimbra on Sunday released an early version of Zimbra Desktop, Web e-mail software that will run online and offline.

The company has built an open-source, Web-based alternative to existing mail servers and clients such as Microsoft Exchange and Outlook. Zimbra uses Ajax, a Web development technique that runs across browsers and operating systems.

Zimbra Desktop requires users to download software that will synchronize with a Zimbra server.

The download includes the Apache Derby database, which acts as a local e-mail store, said Satish Dharmaraj, the company's CEO. Future versions will not require users to do the manual download, he said.

The first release of Zimbra Desktop is an alpha version. The beta version, due this summer, will work with POP and IMAP e-mail servers and will include access to the company's calendaring server. When the company releases its 5.0 product, it will include the offline capabilities.

Dharmaraj said the company has sought to replicate the experience people are used to with products like Outlook. He is scheduled to show Zimbra Desktop in San Diego at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, which starts Monday.

"All this innovation has been happening on the Web side (with browsers and Web services), and we want to bring innovation to the desktop as well," he said.

More Web development technology that bridges the desktop with the Web is starting come out.

Adobe Systems earlier this month released an alpha version of Apollo, which allows people to write Web applications that can run on desktop machines.

And last week, online-collaboration-software company Joyent detailed Slingshot, software that lets developers convert Web applications written using Ruby on Rails to hybrid online-offline applications.

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