Novell previews new GroupWise 6.5 collaboration suite

In a world of collaboration software dominated by Microsoft Corp.'s Exchange and IBM's Lotus Notes, Novell continues to push ahead with its GroupWise application, hoping to distinguish itself in a busy field of contenders.

In a conference call with users and analysts Wednesday, Novell and partner vendor IntelliReach Corp. in Dedham, Mass., outlined a preview of the upcoming new version of GroupWise, due out in February, by exploring key new features and reminding users of some of the existing product's strengths in terms of total cost of ownership and flexibility.

Howard Tayler, product manager for GroupWise at Novell, said the company's strategy will be to continue offering its GroupWise line to enterprise business customers while providing a separate NetMail product for the Internet services market. By providing different versions for different needs, the company can better serve customers and provide flexibility that competitors can't offer, he said.

According to Tayler, Version 6.5 of GroupWise will take over where Version 6 left off by adding improved antispam features, which will allow users to reduce unwanted e-mail by 65 percent, and a new instant messaging application called "Conversation." A live demonstration of the messaging program was a disappointment when the reply of another user failed to appear on the screen, but the instant messaging (IM) software is still in development and hasn't yet had a public beta test, Tayler said.

One feature the new IM application won't have in its initial release with GroupWise 6.5 is compatibility with other IM clients in use. But that kind of compatibility also remains on the drawing boards, he said.

"We recognize that this is important, that this is something you're going to want to have," he said. "It is in the works."

One of the main strengths of Novell's applications compared with those of its competitors, he said, is their lower total cost of ownership, which will be a key marketing tool as the company launches the new version next year.

Novell currently has some 34 million users of its GroupWise application, according to figures from Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

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