October 11, 2006

Eudora is dead, long live Eudora

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

In a surprise announcement today, Qualcomm says it will be ceasing development of the commercial version of the once-popular Eudora mail client. In its stead, the company says it will collaborate with the Mozilla Foundation and base future versions of Eudora on Mozilla Thunderbird. The release of the open source Eudora is scheduled for the first half of 2007.

Qualcomm spokesperson Jeremy James says that the company made the decision because Eudora, while a profitable product for the company, does not fit with Qualcomm's core business of digital wireless communications products. However, the company also wanted to support loyal users of Eudora, and by moving to an open source version of Eudora it will provide a way for Qualcomm to exit the business and allow the community to maintain Eudora going forward.

James also pointed out that the open source version of Eudora will finally address requests for a Linux version of the mailer. The current versions of Eudora support Mac OS and Windows exclusively.

Other open source mail clients were considered, but James says that Qualcomm felt that "Thunderbird is the best choice, and the relationship with the Mozilla Foundation is the best relationship to have," for collaborating on the open source release.

James didn't disclose how many developers from Qualcomm would be devoted to the project, but said it would be a "core set of engineers" that includes Steve Dorner, who originally developed Eudora in 1988 at the University of Illinois as a freeware product for the Mac. Qualcomm purchased Eudora in 1991.

Frank Hecker, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, says that no money is being exchanged for the project, and Qualcomm is simply donating time and developer resources. For its part, the Mozilla Foundation will be providing infrastructure support in the form of its version control and bug tracking services, as well as developer support and collaboration with Qualcomm. Hecker pointed out that "there's nothing unusual" about the partnership with Qualcomm, and that there are other projects that have based their products on Mozilla code.

Hecker says that he used to be a user of Eudora, and he's "happy that it has a future as an open source project."

The open source Eudora is unlikely to contain much code from the proprietary releases. James says that the commercial releases contain third-party code that Qualcomm cannot release under an open source license. He also says that the codebases are sufficiently different that "it's easier to start with a clean sheet" than to try to merge the two.

However, Qualcomm has committed to retaining Eudora's feature set. Eudora includes several features not found in Thunderbird, including a "MoodWatch" feature for spotting "flame content" in incoming and outgoing mail, the Eudora Sharing Protocol (ESP) for sharing files, and usage stats for email.

Qualcomm also announced the final releases of the proprietary version of Eudora today, version 7.1 for Windows and 6.2.4 for the Mac OS. The company says it will continue commercial sales at a reduced price with six months of technical support until the open source version is released, and honor all other existing support contracts for Eudora through their complete term.


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