Bring Open Source to your Phone with ZimbraME

As anyone who uses Zimbra knows, we like to make cool stuff. A while back, we decided to make a rich mobile client for Zimbra Collaboration Suite which a regular phone could use to access Zimbra. We decided to base it on J2ME, a ubiquitous Java Runtime environment on many mobile devices, that allows it to run Java-based applications. The result is called ZimbraME– and now it’s ready for a wider audience.


So why would you even want to install this? Well, the answer is: you really do want your e-mail, calendars, and contacts on your phone. Not everyone wants or has a BlackBerry, or a super fancy phone. You’ve most likely been using a J2ME-based application on your phone, and probably didn’t even know it. Many cell phone carriers have online stores where you buy Ringtones or Games via the phone. Well, those programs are often j2me based.

There are just a few standards/protocols for mobile devices to get mail/calendar data. The largest and most widely used is Microsoft’s ActiveSync protocol, and we provide ActiveSync compatibility through Zimbra Mobile. Apple recently announced that they are licensing this protocol for the iPhone. The two most obvious problems with it are that you need a phone that understands the protocol and this usually entails having a smartphone.

The next most popular method is BlackBerry. BlackBerry (unlike ActiveSync) requires your server to talk to RIM’s service. Your server never talks directly to the phone. We provide a solution to this through the Zimbra Connector for BlackBerry. It works great, and I actually use this with my BlackBerry 8800 World Edition phone (although I have yet to use it outside of the US…what a great investment that was).

There are a few third party/community driven initiatives that allow mobile sync. One such method is the Funambol connector and some members in our forum seem to be having varying levels of success. We invite you to take a look and see if you want to contribute.

Then there’s the ZimbraME client. The Zimbra J2ME application is a program that you run on your ordinary cell phone that provides an over-the-air gateway into your Zimbra server. Whether you’re running Samsung, BlackBerry, or just have a razor phone, you can access your data right on your phone…for free! ZimbraME is Open Source, so you can grab and compile the source from our Public P4 Cache and make it work with the device of your choice. Be sure to read the ReadME file for compilation instructions.

ZimbraME talks to the Zimbra server through our SOAP interface, so no special ports are needed, because Zimbra runs (usually) on port 80 or 443. Just point and go.

Because ZimbraME is j2me-based, and talks via SOAP, the app is as standards compliant as you can get. No proprietary protocol or licensing costs, and no super fancy phone required. It also supports our powerful search query language on the phone, so you can find exactly the message(s) you need.

ZimbraME is beta, so there will probably be a few issues. If you need help, or want a phone for us to support, feel free to drop by the Zimbra Forums. To get the application, point your phone’s web browser to: http://demo2.zimbra.com/zimbrame/list and download the file for your phone.

ZimbraME Page & List of Supported Phones
Building Zimbra from Perforce
ZimbraME Forum

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