Open-Xchange users offered syncing tool for iPhone

New feature will help make iPhones more attractive to enterprise users

E-mail collaboration software vendor Open-Xchange has released beta software that adds an enterprise-critical feature to Apple's popular iPhone -- the ability to receive calendar and contact updates wirelessly instead of plugging the device into a computer.

In an announcement Wednesday, the Tarrytown, N.Y.-based vendor said the new capability will help make iPhones more attractive to enterprise users who need more business-aimed features than those currently supplied in the devices. Open-Xchange is an open-source alternative to Microsoft Exchange e-mail and collaboration server.

The new Open-Xchange software tool is available as a free download to IT departments and hosted collaboration service providers that use Open-Xchange and requires no configuration, according to the company.

Additional enterprise-friendly features are also in the pipeline, including upcoming integration tools for Apple Mac OS X iSync, according to the company.

"It makes [the iPhone] a business machine," said Raphael Laguna de la Vera, CEO and co-founder of Open-Xchange. "It's an Internet machine that's a laptop replacement for many people," and this new feature will make it more appropriate for business users. The beta version of the new tool has been released to the open source community, he said, and the tool will be integrated into the next scheduled Open-Xchange Server 6 Service Pack 4, due by August.

IPhone users currently have to dock their iPhones to their computers to receive calendar and contact updates, he said, which was a hassle for business users. That can all be done wirelessly now using the tool and "this is what the iPhone is all about," he said.

Currently, Microsoft Exchange does not have this capability, but it's expected to be available later this month to Microsoft Exchange users. Many new features are the result of new iPhone 2.0 firmware that is expected later this month from Apple, which will be adding more enterprise features and tools for iPhone users. In April, Apple released a new iPhone software development kit (SDK) to encourage developers to build new applications for the devices.

So far, Open-Xchange has about 2.5 million users, with another 5.5 million expected by the end of the year due to recently signed hosting service deals with several e-mail and collaboration service providers, including Network Solutions and 1 and 1 Internet Inc., Laguna de la Vera said.

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