Open-Xchange Launches Web Productivity Tools

Can OX-Text take on Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365?

Open-Xchange, which makes a mail server alternative to Microsoft Exchange, is expanding its product with the ability to create and edit documents, thereby competing with both Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps.

The new features are part of the new Open-Xchange OX Text offering, which will be available starting 8 April as part of the Web based OX App Suite, according to a 20 March announcement by the company.

Cloud based productivity

open xchange ox app suite 2OX Text is the first part of the company’s upcoming cloud-based office productivity suite, called OX Documents, which will get creation and editing capabilities for spreadsheets and presentations later in 2013, according to the company.

The idea, Open-Xchange CEO Rafael Laguna told TechWeekEurope’s partner eWEEK, is to include office productivity applications as part of the App Suite “to address the needs of companies that need office capabilities” while serving a broader part of its customer base.

The additions to App Suite have been in the works for about a year, Laguna said. “I have always wondered how we could get into the office suite business, which would be perfect fit for Open-Xchange.”

To do that, the company in March 2012 hired 11 people who had worked with the original open-source Star Office suite, which eventually became OpenOffice. According to Laguna. The OX Text editing piece was built from scratch by people who built OpenOffice. The team is now up to 15 members.

OX Text allows direct editing capabilities for Microsoft Word .docx files and OpenOffice or LibreOffice .odt files, which means they can easily be transferred and worked on by many users, he said. “People can integrate this into the stuff they already have so you can make your cloud collaboration applications so much more useful.”

Open-Xchange offers its App Suite and other products to about 80 Internet service providers, telecom and mobile carriers, hosting companies, cloud providers and other partners, who then offer them to their end users.

The new OX Text and future OX Documents capabilities will be available to the partners that want to add such capabilities to their applications and services.

OX Documents will also be available for use separately from the OX App Suite, which was unveiled last November by Open-Xchange as a central portal where users can work with everything — from their corporate email to their Facebook feeds, Gmail accounts, photos, videos, other social media feeds and much more. End users are able to view their content using a Web browser on any device, including tablets, laptops, smartphones and desktop computers.

OX Text will be released under GNU General Public License 2 and Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License, as well as under a commercial license that offers support based subscriptions to partner companies.

The cloud-based OX App Suite was created so that end users could have a place to bring all their documents, email and other content together in one place. The App Suite replaces Open-Xchange’s previous mail server version, Open-Xchange Server 6 (OX6), which debuted in 2006.

End users can preview their files before opening them and can open documents in a wide range of file formats, which makes it very flexible, said Laguna.
Android users must be using the Chrome browser to on their devices to be able to do on-device editing.

A new direction for Open Xchange?

Liam Eagle, an analyst with 451 Research, told eWEEK in an email interview that OX Text and the OX Documents strategy is “the first step in a new direction for Open-Xchange, making good on the promise of the desktop in the cloud notion the company is embracing. The integration of hosted office productivity applications with the email and calendar tools is in line with what is happening around email elsewhere, most notably with Office 365 and Google Apps.”

While the new OX Text and OX Documents features aren’t completely new ideas in the marketplace, they will help the company as it continues to position itself to compete with Office 365 and Google Apps, Eagle wrote.

“But there is some nice tech there as well,” he wrote. “It’s built to work with existing file formats, so you can open and edit a Word doc, edit it from within your OX storage interface, and save it as a Word doc, without losing any formatting. This, and the fact that most OX hosting partners are offering users an entry-level version for free, really gets a lot of the barriers out of the way for people to try it out.”

A key advantage of Open-Xchange’s approach, said Eagle, is that “a user could receive a doc via email, and open and edit it from within that email environment. It also has some pretty powerful functions for collaborating live on edits, from desktops and mobile devices, and tracking the versions created by those edits.”

In the future, that could become a bigger benefit in the marketplace, he wrote. “Realistically, we’re still a few years away from adoption of SaaS [software as a service] reaching the point where people are willing to set aside their desktop word processing or spreadsheet tools. OX Documents is going to exist as a complement to those desktop tools in the meantime.”

Do you know open source software? Try our quiz!


Originally published on eWeek.