Mirapoint adds group calendar to messaging appliance

Mirapoint is expected to announce next week new features in its messaging sever appliances, including a new calendaring application and an e-mail tool that aggregates messages from multiple accounts and funnels them into a single in-box.

By extending the capabilities of its appliances' software, Mirapoint hopes to woo groupware customers from Microsoft Corp. and IBM Corp. Mirapoint had previously competed mostly in the messaging space exclusively against the likes of Sun Microsystems Inc. and Critical Path Inc.

With the new group calendar application as part of its messaging hardware, Mirapoint will allow customers to provide a company-wide view of appointments and events in the same vein as Microsoft's Exchange and IBM's Lotus Notes/Domino groupware platforms, said Jeff Brainard, senior manager of product marketing at Mirapoint. In addition, it has added a "Getmail" function that allows users to check outside POP (post office protocol) accounts from within Mirapoint's software and consolidate all messages in Mirapoint's e-mail inbox.

"We can't hide the fact that Microsoft does have a large market share on the desktop; however, it is an administrator's nightmare to have to manage all these users on a huge variety of desktops with all sorts of versions of operating systems," Brainard said.

Mirapoint, based in Sunnyvale, California, has tried to remove some of the complexity associated with managing a messaging platform by selling appliances with its own pre-installed software designed to simplify tasks such as e-mail routing and load balancing. Mirapoint's messaging appliances are aimed at both Internet service providers (ISPs) and enterprise customers.

The group calendar applications will make it possible for users across a company to share a common calendar and also to create separate calendars for particular teams or departments, Brainard said. Users can check their calendars with a Web browser and on wireless devices.

As with similar products from competitors, Mirapoint's calendar software will check for conflicts between users' schedules when a new appointment is entered and suggest other possible meeting times, if it detects overlapping events. The software also regulates which users can make changes to events or data in the calendar. Mirapoint said its XML (extensible markup language) interface will allow customers to customize the look of their calendars.

One customer has started rolling out the Mirapoint calendar application across his company in the hopes that it will provide better management and security than current systems.

"This is an ease of use issue," said Eugene Archibald, director of network operations for Sega.com Inc. in San Francisco. "I come from the sys admin world and was a little leery of not tuning my own systems. But I've learned that what I might lose in features that I thought I wanted has been made up by having our corporate mail just work."

Archibald looked at competing calendar products from Oracle Corp. and Microsoft but picked Mirapoint because he believes the long-term administrative costs will be reduced.

"The up front cost is comparable to what you might pay for Exchange," Archibald said. "Exchange just has such large administrative and maintenance requirements and poor downtime statistics that we put the kibosh on it."

The calendar costs US$4 to $5 per user with discounts provided for volume purchases, Brainard said.

Along with the new calendar software, Mirapoint has made it possible for customers to use the POP protocol to pull other e-mail messages from other accounts into its e-mail platform. This feature can help cut down on the number of places a user needs to go to find his or her e-mail accounts. The software will color code messages from different accounts and place them all in the Mirapoint in-box. This service is free.

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