Sync as the center of my new Zimbra universe

Microsoft drove me away as a customer. How many others will share my story?

Matt Asay Contributing Writer
Matt Asay is a veteran technology columnist who has written for CNET, ReadWrite, and other tech media. Asay has also held a variety of executive roles with leading mobile and big data software companies.
Matt Asay
3 min read

A few weeks agoI said I was dumping Microsoft Entourage for the open-source Zimbra email offering. I did, but not quite. I started using the Zimbra server to pump mail to my Entourage client, but couldn't quite give up on the comfort of a suite I'd been using for years.

But then Entourage 2008 happened and everything broke.

Well, not everything. Microsoft's Entourage 2008 is a fantastic island of productivity. It's fast and I love things like My Day. But Entourage 2008 abandoned my Blackberry, wouldn't sync with iCal (for me), and otherwise left me stranded.

So on Sunday I dumped it. Completely. I haven't opened it since.

All of which makes me realize just how fundamental sync is to my life, and why Zimbra makes sense. Let me explain.

We're getting to the point where very few applications make sense as standalone applications. Everything needs to feed data to some other application. A few applications like Microsoft Office have enough entrenched users that they can basically isolate themselves from the rest of the world, but most applications have a fundamental need to communicate with other applications.

At the heart of a collaboration suite is the address book. Without it, my email, phone, etc. all become cumbersome. Add in a calendar to help me remember when to collaborate with the people in my address book, and things get even more interesting. With Entourage 2008, I was stuck on my desktop - I couldn't move the data to my phone (Blackberry originally and now iPhone), which was just fine until anything or anyone in my life changed.

Once my ability to sync was removed, the application itself mattered very little. (This makes me think that open-source Funambol has an even better opportunity in front of it than even its biggest proponents may realize.) I used to complain about Zimbra's web-based client because I didn't want a web-based client. (It now offers a desktop client, too.) Today that overriding concern became a complete non-issue. My weekend headache with sync made me recognize that my absolute top concern is that my data sync across devices and across programs on my Mac.

Zimbra doesn't have a privileged position in the market. It doesn't have the opportunity to declare, "It's Outlook/Exchange or nothing!" As a result, it syncs very well with my Mac-based iCal and Address Book. (It also syncs with Entourage 2004, and will eventually sync with Entourage 2008, I assume.) I just turned on the sync functionality and within minutes I had my entire Address Book in Zimbra, along with my calendar.

It took just one day of frustration with Microsoft for not syncing with my Blackberry to motivate me to buy an iPhone. It took one day more to push me off Microsoft Entourage to Zimbra. What happens when others make decisions like mine? What happens when we get fed up with Microsoft making an island of itself, unwilling (or unable) to connect with the outside world?

Choice will happen. Competition will happen. Better software will happen. I got mine with Zimbra. Perhaps you'll get yours from someone else?