Well, after a long year+ of teasing and waiting, it seems that the Cocoa version of Eudora for Mac OS X was a chimera. Today QUALCOMM announced that they are discontinuing commercial development of Eudora, and working with the Mozilla Foundation to move Eudora onto the Mozilla Thunderbird platform.
This announcement comes as something of a shock to me. After holding on waiting for Cocoa Eudora, this shift in strategy feels like the rug being yanked out. It’s going to take some time to digest, and I suppose we should wait for a few days before forming a mob and see if further details emerge. I would especially like to hear more about what “using the Thunderbird platform” really means, and what will be happening with the Eudora code base, especially the long-rumored Cocoa Eudora code.
For now, we’re a bit light on details. The spin on the announcement is that Eudora is being released from the constraints that come from being a commercial product, freed to grow, change, and thrive as an Open Source project. Who knows, that may happen — but it’ll be 6 months before we see a release that might give a clue as to how well it will work out. I confess, I’m skeptical, and not optimistic, for a couple reasons:
- After using it for several years, I still think that Mozilla Thunderbird basically sucks. It has a lot of usability issues, it doesn’t feel like a native OS X application, non-Mac-style text editing, the anti-spam filtering is mediocre, no integration with anti-virus software, no support for platform technologies like the Address Book, AppleScript, or the system-wide spelling checker. Grafting a Eudora-style interface onto Thunderbird may improve the usability, but I don’t see how it deals with the other issues.
- In all of the various description pages (press release, FAQ, Mozilla Penelope project page), no mention is made of what is happening to the Eudora source code (either Classic or Cocoa). Reading between the lines of the text, it sounds like the project is to make Thunderbird more Eudora-like, and will abandon the Eudora code base. That’s the opposite of what I think should happen; even the current Eudora is a lot closer to being a great OS X email client than Thunderbird is.
- From the team listed on the Mozilla Penelope project page, it seems as though QUALCOMM is providing to the venture resources in the form of developers. So, everyone who might have done something useful with the Eudora code base is committed instead to the Thunderbird mashup project. In the long run, that may result in a much improved Thunderbird, but I’ve already waited a long time for Eudora to improve.
I would probably be despondent right now, except I’ve been using Apple Mail more over the last month, and with the use of plug-ins like Mail Act-On and Mail Tags, and the OS X system capability for remapping keyboard shortcuts, I’m coming to like it.
Update: I don’t know where the quotations come from, but the TidBITS posting about Eudora going Open Source contains some comments from Steve Dorner, the original and continuing developer of Eudora. Nothing he says contradicts my comments above.