zimbra.bmpZimbra, the open-source messaging software company that offers more modern features than Microsoft’s Outlook, has cut a major deal with Comcast, keeping it on an impressive trend of growth.

It benefits Comcast because it lets the cable giant give its customers a messaging platform — the idea being it will stem the defection of customers to services like Gmail or Yahoo Mail. Zimbra’s messaging system is in some ways more sophisticated that the email systems provided by Microsoft Outlook, MSN, Google or Yahoo Mail. It works both offline and online. Zimbra’s AJAX and other features make it easy to do things like scroll over an address and have a map pop up, and to switch seamlessly to your contacts and calendar without leaving your email. We covered it here. Zimbra’s chief executive Satish Dharmaraj tells VentureBeat a consumer version of Zimbra will be out sometime this summer (meaning, you’ll be able to get it directly from Zimbra, instead going through a service provider).

As part of the deal with Comcast, Zimbra will help it operate a so-called “SmartZone” communications center (see screenshot below). There, customers can get email, check voicemail online, send instant messages and manage their address book.

It will roll out later this year, and offer the following:

o “visual” voice mail — You can listen to your voicemails online and forward voice mail messages via email to anyone. Customers can also view, save and print call history. Customers can also manage calling features such as call forwarding, do not disturb and voice mail playback options.
o an address book that synchronizes with and is accessible from other Web-connected devices.
o instant messaging and video instant messages.
o other features like weather, news reports and video clips.

Plaxo, another company, will be offering components of the address book.

Zimbra has now signed deals with more than a hundred hosting providers.

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