Zarafa OutlookEarlier this year, we from Zarafa, have informed our ecosystem about the direction of Zarafa’s future product development. It was one, very long newsletter where we showed how we see the world of communication & sharing. Most people only remembered one thing, though: Zarafa stops Outlook. In some cases, people felt like the world has come to an end. Of course, we understand such emotions. But of course, such a big decision is not made overnight. I would like to take a moment to explain how our discontinuation of the Zarafa MAPI client is only one part of our mission to create an open source communication & sharing platform.

Phasing out Outlook Support via MAPI32.DLL

Why are we phasing out Outlook support in the first place, you may ask? First of all we think, we are not going to be able to deliver high-quality support for Outlook due to various reasons in the future. For instance, Microsoft is changing its client-server communication which fits their cloud-focused model better. This would require us to completely start our development from scratch.

But then, what will be happening in the next two to five years? Microsoft’s Office365 has already integrated parts of the Exchange, SharePoint and Skype product families. When are they going to decide to add the same functionality to Outlook? When this would happen – and let’s be honest they have good reasons for doing this – we would miss a lot of features.

One may argue, not everybody in my organization would need such features today. But we expect things to change rapidly. E-mail communication is a commodity. A lot of people use all kind of mobile devices to organize their meetings and tasks on the go. We believe, the future will be about how, with whom and from where we share data.

Communication & Sharing

In fact: Inviting someone to an appointment is nothing less than sharing it with him, isn’t it? From there on, I would like tools that help me be more efficient in that very same meeting. Some now tend to use different tools like Dropbox and WhatsApp to accomplish this. But every tool introduces another layer of complexity while the user experience also differs from tool to tool.

These are user challenges that we want to solve with our client strategy. A strategy that is focused on the web (WebApp, DeskApp) and mobile (Z-Push compatibility). The WebApp is the client we fully control, and here we bring presence, chat, video meetings and telephony together. For example, with our Zarafa web meetings, we are introducing an open and secure way to start multi-attendee web meetings from your inbox. Without the need for additional browser plugins. Finally, Zarafa Files will help you to share files with individuals and teams.

Future Strategy

To realize our ambitious goals, we have started a transformation. The Zarafa MAPI client will no longer be supported in the future, as it is not 100% in control. At the same time, we do control our compatibility to Z-Push. Z-Push is an open source ActiveSync implementation. The community developers have a server running which enables Outlook 2013/2016 access over ActiveSync. Together with the Z-Push-team, we even identified opportunities to make more than just the own inbox available.

Existing customers who already own a valid subscription are eligible to support for Outlook MAPI clients until May 1, 2017. This is one year more than promised in our first announcement. We have decided to provide extended Outlook support after feedback from partners and customers.

Conclusion

There is no reason for you to switch on panic mode and uninstall your Microsoft Outlook. We are in the same process like other vendors. But our way is the open source way – a way of staying open and compatible. Openness cannot be achieved if your main client depends on closed source services. And as you have read above, the community has already been successful in getting ActiveSync compatible to Outlook.

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Andreas Rösler

Since 2006, Andreas has been responsible for the development and support of Zarafa's German-speaking distribution network. Each day, he and his team take care of several hundred Zarafa partners and thousands of Zarafa customers.

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