September 19, 2011 49 Comments
SmarterMail 9 is on the horizon and we’re so excited about the features in it that we’re breaking from tradition and doing something a bit out of the ordinary.
Our normal course of action when we approach betas of a new product is as follows:
- Tim, SmarterTools’ CEO, becomes a bit more active in our public forums, dropping hints here and there about new features when we finalize them.
- We create a Beta Buzz Page that gives more details of the new features as well as formally announces the open beta.
- We create specific forums for beta participants to post bugs, impressions and discuss the new features and the product in general.
This time, however, I wanted to tease the new features ahead of time – transparently and a bit more openly. After all, as we bring SmarterMail new features and evolve the product, I felt it was time we also evolved how we communicate with customers. Thankfully, Tim agreed.
The Evolution of SmarterMail
9.x is going to be a pretty major evolutionary leap for SmarterMail, one that moves us more towards becoming a complete communications platform for end users. What that means is that we are starting to integrate additional methods of communication into the product beyond simply email.
Sure, email is the primary focus of SmarterMail, and it always will be. However, the mail server is also the perfect tool to bring other forms of communication to end users. In fact, one the biggest issues internally at SmarterTools is the ability to communicate with all our employees live, in real-time, wherever they are: at home, at work or on the road. Email is a great form of communication, but it’s never going to be as instantaneous as something like instant messaging.
Instant Messaging Comes to SmarterMail
Therefore, in SmarterMail 9.x, we are excited to announce that we will be integrating a Jabber server into SmarterMail. That means you will be able to use any Jabber-enabled instant messaging (IM) client like Adium, Digsby or countless others, without having to have a separate chat server and without having to use an outside service like Google Talk, Live Messenger, Yahoo! or others. All of your chats will be internal to a specific domain, giving you full access and control, both from an administrative AND a regulatory compliance standpoint. In addition, all users in SmarterMail will be automatically available for IM through the Global Address List (GAL), which means less overhead and management for system admins, Human Resources, etc.
A Word (or 10) About MAPI and Exchange Web Services (EWS)
Another solution we were looking for as an organization was to make both Mac and Windows versions of Microsoft Outlook integrate as seamlessly with SmarterMail as it does with Microsoft Exchange. As a result, last year we put a lot of time and effort looking into MAPI. We even let people in the forums know we were making good progress and we even sent some employees to the Microsoft campus in Redmond for testing and verification of our progress. However, we quickly realized that Microsoft’s future is in Exchange Web Services (EWS). MAPI is essentially being deprecated by Microsoft as it is extremely inefficient and its internal security requirements weren’t compatible with other platforms such as Mac. EWS is the future; it is up-to-date and a very efficient method of synchronizing mail, calendars, contacts, notes, etc. We believe Microsoft is betting on EWS as the future, and so are we.
Therefore, we are very excited that we will have EWS integration with SmarterMail 9.x. Already, Microsoft supports EWS in Microsoft Outlook 2011 for Mac. In addition, EWS will be supported in the new version of Microsoft Office 2012. This also means that SmarterTools will be one of the first mail servers, in addition to Exchange, to support Exchange Web Services and will put SmarterMail well ahead of our competition…once again. The integration and usability is going to be outstanding!
And There’s More…
If these two major features weren’t enough, SmarterMail 9.x will have a completely updated interface that is ten times faster than SmarterMail 8.x (and it blows versions previous to 8.x out of the water) and, just as with SmarterTrack, the web interface will be able to be used on tablets such as the iPad, on Samsung/Acer or other Android tablets and even on the upcoming (and great-looking) Windows 8 and the Metro interface. Although users normally configure their iPads and tablets to use Exchange ActiveSync or iCal and CardDav, when you’re using a communal iPad or picking up a friend’s tablet you will now have complete web interface functionality at your fingertips!
Finally, SmarterMail 9.x has been Alpha tested for some time internally here at SmarterTools – we run a number of different email clients, IM clients, tablets, operating systems and phones so we are a perfect test bed for our own products. As such, SmarterMail 9.x will be one of our most tried and tested releases prior to Beta release, focusing not only on major features but all the minor and little things that users and administrators appreciate from SmarterTools products!
So that’s a quick look at what’s coming up. What are your thoughts?
This post was written by Derek C., vice president of marketing and communications for SmarterTools. If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to the SmarterTools Blog so you don’t miss an update.