An Ontario software company has released the latest version of its messaging application, which it hopes will not only attract more buyers but also pull in more value-added resellers.

“”We’re always on the look out for more partners,”” said John Myers, vice-president and general manager of the

FirstClass software division of Open Text Corp.

“”With FirstClass 8 we’ve added so many capabilities we think it will energize more customers and, potentially, more partners.””

Among those new features is support for Linux clients for customers who don’t want to be tied to an all-Windows architecture. Most sales – about 80 per cent – are on the Windows platform. FirstClass also comes out in a Macintosh client-server version as well as a Web-based version.

The software is a combination groupware/collaboration application, a fit with its enterprise content management parent, Waterloo Ont.-based Open Text.

Myers said competitors include IBM’s Lotus Notes and Microsoft’s Exchange platforms.

“”It’s certainly the best rendition of the product they’ve produced,”” said Robert Whitelock, president of Planatir Information Systems of Wiarton, Ont., a PC and Apple VAR which sells and supports FirstClass.

Among the improvements he likes is that the application’s interface has been substantially improved.

Open Text bought the Richmond Hill, Ont. company that owned FirstClass in 2001 and has let the division grow, said Myers. It now has a software development team of 60.

He estimates First Class has 120 partners in 30 countries, most of whom are “”relatively small.””

There is a one-person direct sales staff for customers who prefer to buy from a vendor, and because some partners focus on implementation and support rather than sales. But Myers said most sales are done through partners.

The application is strong in the education vertical (there is a specially-priced Education Edition) as well as Mac-intensive industries such as advertising and graphics.

Improvements in the latest version include secure instant messaging and enhanced presence management, a Directory Services module to ease the integration of FirstClass into corporate meta-directories, additional support for user authentication and prevention of denial-of-service attacks and better e-mail security.

The new FirstClass Explorer is an ActiveX plug-in for Microsoft Internet Explorer which the company says provides the full benefit of the FirstClass client as a Web application for administrators who don’t want to handle fat-client installation and maintenance.

The new also promises performance and tuning enhancements.

FirstClass 8 has a base price of $100 a seat for a five-seat licence. However, Myers said there are discounts for volume and certain verticals.

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