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Novell to revamp groupware

The networking software company will begin beta testing a revamped version of its GroupWise package next month.

Novell (NOVL) is prepping an upgrade to its groupware package for a public beta test next month and a summertime release.

GroupWise 5.2 will include better Internet protocol support, said Eldon Greenwood, GroupWise product manager. The releases will come with support for the messaging protocols IMAP4 (Internet message access protocol) and POP3 (post office protocol), plus the directory protocol LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol).

Better protocol support is a must for Novell to stay in the groupware race with competitors Lotus Development, Microsoft, and Netscape Communications.

GroupWise 5.2 will, however, lack S-MIME (secure multipurpose Internet mail extensions) support, which allows for secure email transmissions of a variety of data, and NNTP (network news transfer protocol) newsreader support. They will be released in the next full-blown version of GroupWise, set to ship sometime later this year or early next year, said Greenwood.

The Jefferson Project, the much-ballyhooed document management component of GroupWise, is currently in beta testing and is also scheduled to ship this summer. But it will hit the streets in a release separate from version 5.2, although current GroupWise customers will not have to pay extra for the component, Greenwood said.

Novell, which until recently claimed more user licenses than any other groupware maker, has seen its lead eroded as collaborative software has moved to the Web. Lotus is now in the top spot thanks to its client-server Notes groupware and the new Web version, Domino Powered by Notes.

Novell must also do battle for marketshare with Microsoft's Exchange and newcomer Netscape, which is emerging as a groupware player with its SuiteSpot and Communicator software.

Netscape is also a Novell partner. Earlier this year, the two companies formed a joint venture for developing, integrating, and selling their software. The move resulted in the formation of a new company called Novonyx. Some analysts have said the joint development effort may prompt Novell to discontinue its groupware and focus on combining Netscape's Internet software with Novell's network operating system software.

Greenwood denied the reports, as have other Novell officials since the venture was announced a few months ago.

"I don't think the venture hurts GroupWise as much as it helps Novell," he said, adding that the company has no plans to eliminate the product.