Plug Pulled on Eudora

The Eudora e-mail software has been around nearly 20 years, long before the Internet became a household word. Now, with its glory days behind, its owner is calling it quits.

Qualcomm Inc., the company best known as a pioneer of the CDMA technology that powers many of the world's mobile phones, says the latest Eudora release will be its last commercial version, available at a cut-rate price of $19.95 with six months technical support.

Beginning next year, Eudora will evolve and incorporate code from Thunderbird, the free, open-source e-mail program from Mozilla Corp. New versions will be based entirely on Thunderbird code, and the software will be given away free.

Steve Dorner created the application in 1988 when he was a computer programmer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and named it for writer Eudora Welty. San Diego-based Qualcomm bought Eudora in 1991, hired Dorner and made Eudora work on computers running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows as well as the original platform, Apple Computer Inc.'s Mac OS computers.

A host of other e-mail programs, including Outlook and Outlook Express from Microsoft, eclipsed Eudora long ago.

Richi Jennings, an analyst at San Francisco-based Ferris Research, says Eudora peaked in the early to mid-1990s. Today's following, he said, is "small and pretty hard core."

Jeremy James, a Qualcomm spokesman, said e-mail doesn't work as a stand-alone business. Companies like Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. offer free e-mail to keep people on their Web sites. Microsoft and IBM Corp. use e-mail as a piece of larger software packages.

Eudora, while profitable, hasn't been part of Qualcomm's "core" business for at least seven years, James said.

"It's difficult to sell something that people can get free," he said.


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