Qualcomm gives Eudora a Mozilla makeover

To exit the e-mail software market, Qualcomm is rebuilding its products on an open-source Thunderbird foundation.

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Telecommunications technology company Qualcomm is rebuilding its Eudora e-mail program using open-source Thunderbird software from the Mozilla Foundation.

In the 1990s, Eudora caught on as a popular program for sending and receiving e-mail. But Qualcomm "has decided not to remain in the e-mail market because it is not in alignment with the core business or strategic goals," the San Diego-based company said.

The Mozilla-Eudora project is called Penelope, and six Qualcomm programmers are working on it.

On Wednesday, Qualcomm launched its last commercial editions of Eudora, version 7.1 for Windows and 6.2.4 for Mac OS X. These cost $19.95, as opposed to about $50--the price of the last release. The lower-priced software includes six months of support instead of the regular 12 months the company offered earlier.

In the future, customers will be offered no-cost versions of Eudora based on the Thunderbird e-mail application. Those programs, to be released in the first half of 2007, will be open-source and freely available, Qualcomm said.

"This is good news for Eudora users," Ferris Research analyst Richi Jennings said. "Eudora hasn't had a bright future for some considerable time--it's hardly been a shining star on Qualcomm's balance sheet...This will move Eudora users onto a more stable code platform (and) one that's being actively developed."

Spokesman Jeremy James did note that the company won't provide technical support for the free version. People will need to use more informal open-source support channels, such as mailing lists and forums.

It's not yet clear which elements of the current Eudora will be brought to the Thunderbird-based version, James said, but the goal is continuity for users.

"It should look like, feel like, act like Eudora," he said. "The goal is to not only maintain as much as possible the feature and user experience consistency, but also, using the open-source community, to continue to evolve the software."

The Penelope project does have goals, though. Features planned for the initial 0.1 version include Eudora keyboard shortcuts and software to import current Eudora settings and stored messages.

Version 0.5 will support the import of current Eudora filters--the automatic actions based on the content of messages--and will feature a more complete user interface. Version 1.0 will import all Eudora settings and will support preformatted e-mail templates called stationery.

The roots of Thunderbird are in Mozilla software, which originated as the Netscape Navigator package and included a Web browser and an e-mail reader. That project has been split into two parts, the Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail software.

"This is also good news for Thunderbird users, as it adds new ideas to the development team--a team that at times can feel like the ugly sister compared to the Firefox browser," Jennings said.