Novell has announced shipped GroupWise 8, adding interface and administrative upgrades to its messaging and calendaring platform.

The upgrades to GroupWise include a new home view that gives users a portal-like interface into a selection of applications and Web 2.0 tools.

Novell has worked this year to make over its GroupWise platform, which for years has been the perennial third-place collaborative platform behind IBM and Microsoft.

Earlier this year the company acquired SiteScape, which develops open source collaboration tools.
The purchase came after a partnership between Novell and SiteScape had produced in October 2007 Novell Teaming + Conferencing, which is based on SiteScape's ICEcore collaboration tools. Those tools form a web-based team workspace and real-time conferencing platform that includes Web 2.0 and social-networking technologies.

With GroupWise 8, Novell is polishing its core collaboration platform for the future.

"The product has been pretty full featured for some time, but it didn't look as fresh for people who are use to looking at web applications and consumer-based tools," says Mark Levitt, an analyst with IDC.

New is a feature called 'home view' that gives users a dashboard for easy access to applications and Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, feeds and wikis. Users can personalise their dashboards, have multiple dashboards, and can build them to become the client interface for a specific group of users or a business department.

Novell has enhanced the calendar function and will let users share free and busy data with external sources. A new task management feature lets users create tasks from email, prioritise tasks and add sub-tasks to task entries. A visual map lets users follow the progress of their tasks.

GroupWise 8 also has support for a number of handheld devices including iPhone, BlackBerry and Palm.

A contact management upgrade includes support for embedding maps, photos and personal details.

On the administrative side, Novell has added the capability for IT to publish all the email addresses for a particular user into the directory in order to more accurately track each user. Also new are auditing features that support additional information such as client type, version and amount of disk space used.

The new features help IT administrators make licensing, account and storage decisions, according to Wendy Steinle, director of marketing for Novelluser computing solutions.

GroupWise 8 also is part of Novell's company strategy code-named Fossa, which lets users mix and match physical and virtual machines along with management tools, identity services, collaboration software and open source operating systems. The strategy includes enhancements to its virtualisation, Linux, orchestration, policy, identity, compliance and collaboration tools.

GroupWise 8 is priced at $143 (approx £94) per seat.