Like it or not, with Outlook and Exchange, Microsoft has a huge presence in the marketplace, meaning that other mail systems and clients must be able to cope with one or the other of these applications being installed and available. While Exchange does provide standards-compliant ways of handling mail, such as POP3, SMTP, and IMAP, interoperability between Exchange and other mail systems isn't always the best and making Outlook work well with other mail systems can sometimes be a challenge.
Fortunately, there are ways to address some of the interoperability issues so that your users can use Outlook in all its glory without an Exchange backend, or they can use a non-Outlook client with Exchange and continue to achieve a similar level of functionality offered by the Exchange/Outlook combination.
Two such products are Sun's Java System Connector for Microsoft Outlook, which allows desktop users to use Outlook while connected to Sun Java System Messaging and Calendar servers. Much of the functionality offered by Exchange/Outlook is provided via this connector, including the use of the rules wizard, group scheduling, delegation, and find functions. More information about this optional add-on can be found by clicking here.
Another product, the Ximian Connector, was created by Ximian before Novell gobbled up the company and allowed the Ximian Evolution client to connect natively to Exchange servers with support for a majority of the bells and whistles that one would expect from an enterprise groupware platform. Since the acquisition of Ximian, Novell has released the source code for the connector under the GPL (it used to cost money per user), and released a new version of the Evolution client which includes the capabilities for which the connector was previously responsible. The connector source code can be downloaded from here. For more information about the Evolution client, which runs on Linux systems, visit http://www.novell.com/products/desktop/features/evolution.html.
And, don't forget that Outlook can natively connect to any POP3 or IMAP server with no problems and that Exchange can offer up these services to your users so that they can really use any standards-compliant mailer that they like. While they may not have the complete functionality of the Outlook/Exchange combination, or the features provided by the two solutions mentioned above (which really are niche solutions), even though they're using Microsoft products, your users can still enjoy just about any client they like.
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