Open-Xchange's New CEO Eager To Take On The World

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Laguna, who initiated the partnership between Open-Xchange's development team and SUSE Linux in 2001, says this year marks the accumulation of three trends: Software as a Service (SaaS), open source applications, and mobile devices. "You need to be synched on the road," he says. "The next step will be to go up in functionality and offer mobile support."

Laguna says he believes that as businesses look to save money on technology while at the same time expanding operations, open source and SaaS put Open-Xchange in an excellent position to capitalize on these opportunities. "It really boils down to total cost of ownership. SaaS and open source lowers cost considerably," he says. "We're seeing smaller companies who could never afford the big companies' licenses but need the support and function of groupware and messaging and all those things -- if you move to SaaS solutions your costs drop and it becomes a no-brainer." As the trend toward open source applications and SaaS continues, Laguna says he expects companies like Microsoft and IBM to keep a close watch. "Microsoft has always been paranoid about what's going on around them, especially with the open source trend," he says. "I've been noticing that when I speak at conferences there's always Microsoft people there, and I'm also seeing Microsfot engaging itself more in open source-type conferences, which I actually find encouraging."

He says the switch to SaaS and open source software reminds him of the music industry, which saw the digitalization of music and the rise of the Internet wreck havoc on its business model. "Their reaction to the digitalization of music was that they were in the business of selling silver disc and not content, and the business model falls apart," he says.

While Laguna admits the Microsofts of the world won't let it come to that, options are limited. "Microsoft has lost a lot of which made them strong, regarding their ability to move and act quickly," he says. If they open up their proprietary software, it's an act of self-cannibalization, he points out. "So I wouldn't hold my breath," he says. "Maybe they think a good way out is a SaaS trend. It allows them to keep their software under wraps, because they run all their stuff from their own data center."

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As for Open-Xchange, Laguna says he is dedicated to riding the wave of open source maturation across the globe. "The goal is to go live with as many hosters and telcos that we can," he says. "We want to win those in every country in this world." This year, some of those companies will be in the United States, he says, and next year, Asia. "Things seem to be coming together," he says. "I think we will make big progress in 2008."

The company also announced additions to the company's board of directors, the most notable being former Nixdorf CEO Bernhard Woebker. Bernhard Woebker, an investment banking and venture capital consultant and former president of Versant Object Technology GmbH, also joined the board. Open-Xchange board member Richard Seibt replaces Laguna as company chairman.