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Lotus co-founder looking to build open-source apps

By Todd R. Weiss
October 30, 2002 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The co-founder of the former Lotus Development Corp. and creator of Lotus 1-2-3, the first must-have software spreadsheet application for business computing, is now at work building an open-source personal information manager (PIM) package for the masses.
Mitchell Kapor, 51, has had a storied IT past since his days at Lotus, the company he helped co-found in 1982, which IBM eventually purchased. In 1990, he helped create the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights to protect electronic and digital civil liberties, including online privacy and free expression. Since then, Kapor has served on technology boards and has been an investor in IT companies and ideas, working to help them get off the ground.
Kapor, who lives in San Francisco, said in a telephone interview that this latest project is about making a contribution to an IT world that has given him much throughout his career.
The concept for an open-source PIM came to Kapor more than a year ago, when he realized that the new killer apps for users are e-mail and PIM contact information.

Mitchell Kapor, co-founder of the former Lotus Development Corp.
Mitchell Kapor, co-founder of the former Lotus Development Corp.
"The idea in general is to create more and better opportunities for people, especially people who are less well-served, like people on Macs or Linux and also small to medium-size organizations," Kapor said.
For small and midsize businesses, he said, getting advanced collaboration features often requires a big server to run an off-the-shelf application such as Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes. "Big companies complain about how much it costs, and small companies can't afford it," he said. "So they're underserved."
That's how his open-source PIM project, code-named Chandler, was born.
Kapor created the Open Source Applications Foundation last year as a nonprofit group that could serve as the base for the project, while making it clear to open-source contributing developers that the work was for the public good. "I wanted to send a very clear signal that this is not a vehicle for personal economic ambition," Kapor said.
The foundation's Web site went online just 10 days ago and has already gotten many inquiries from prospective volunteer developers, he said. His paid staff has grown to two, with another 10 expected. The volunteers so far include Andy Hertzfeld, who was a member of the original Apple Macintosh development team.
"We've been working, doing a lot of brainstorming," Kapor said. "I've started a lot of things. I'm a serial entrepreneur. I'm comfortable feeling my way through the early stages of a plan."
So why is he doing this when he is comfortably wealthy and not really needing a


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