Comcast Teams Up With Zimbra, Plaxo To Launch SmartZone Communication Hub

Written by Jay Fortner and edited by Richard MacManus

In a big move for Web Office vendor Zimbra, Comcast has teamed up with Zimbra, Plaxo, and HP to announce the SmartZone Communication Hub – a tightly integrated web-based communication app that will merge email, voicemail, IM, and an address book. Comcast is the second largest ISP provider in the US, after AT&T and larger than AOL. It is also one of the largest providers of cable television, entertainment, and digital communications in the U.S. So this a big coup for Zimbra and Plaxo (more on that below). As for HP, they will be assisting in integrating the data, voice, and video services on the SmartZone platform.

SmartZone homepage

Comcast will provide this new web based application at no charge for their customers, through It is scheduled to be released towards the end of this year. This is part of the new generation of Comcast’s consumer triple play (voice, data, and video) services. For Zimbra, it is their largest partnership to date.

The feature set of the SmartZone Communication Hub will include the ability to:

  • Listen to voice mail online and forward messages via e-mail – including the ability to listen to your voicemail within an email, without launching a new program
  • View, save, and print call history
  • Merge contacts via an address book that syncs with multiple devices
  • Send video or traditional instant messages to friends or contacts
  • Add customization, including RSS and the ability to layer in video clips
  • Apply safety and security controls utilizing Bizanga‚Äôs email anti-abuse system, Cloudmark‚Äôs email anti-spam and anti-phishing tools and Trend Micro‚Äôs anti-virus software

SmartZone Voicemail

What it means for Zimbra and Plaxo

Zimbra, a leader in the open source messaging and collaboration space, recently announced the Zimbra Desktop along with a milestone of 6 million paid mailboxes. In this deal with Comcast, Zimbra provides the email and voicemail communications platform. Plaxo, the web-based address book used by over 15 million users, will be powering the address book for the SmartZone Communication Hub. Here’s what both Zimbra and Plaxo get out of it:

  • Proof of concept
  • Both can leverage this partnership to work with other bigcos
  • First-mover advantage for this type of platform
  • Substantially larger reach
  • Revenue (terms of deal not yet disclosed)

What it means for Web Office

After a recent Forrester Research report that executives are wary of using enterprise Web 2.0 start-ups, this may be a shot in the arm for companies like Zimbra. The benefit of using the likes of Zimbra or Plaxo is that they are nimble and so they can quickly provide value added tools for bigcos like Comcast – enabling customized software integrations, amongst other things. Unless Microsoft implements skunk works solutions for web-based office integrations, I think this partnership announcement could be the first of many Web 2.0 integrations in the near future for consumer or enterprise-facing applications.

The Comcast deal suggests that web companies that provide best of breed applications can have a viable business model, by partnering and licensing their apps to bigcos – who can then make their own custom office app suites. The Comcast deal also means that more mainstream consumers will be exposed to the web 2.0 solutions of Zimbra and Plaxo.

If there is one remaining issue, it lies in getting executives more comfortable in leveraging the innovation created by these enterprise web 2.0 start-ups – which the Forrester report clearly showed isn’t happening fast enough.

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