Qualcomm has released a public beta of Eudora 4.3 (limited to 250,000 users who fill out a survey), adding a few new features and eliminating the previous split between the free Eudora Light and the commercial Eudora Pro (see our "Eudora Pro 4.2" series for details on Eudora Pro's features). Although we normally don't report on beta software, the changes appearing in the next revision of Eudora mark an interesting shift from the way Eudora has been distributed in the past, and how it's dealing with pressures from free email clients such as Microsoft Outlook Express.
Once Eudora 4.3 is finally released in a few months, users will be able to select any of three operating modes - Light, Paid, and Sponsored - by choosing Payment & Registration from the Help menu. Paid mode isn't currently available in the beta since Qualcomm hasn't gotten the registration system online yet, and Light mode switches back to Sponsored mode after a restart in 4.3b10 - that will be fixed in the next beta.
Light mode is essentially an upgrade to the current Eudora Light, offering a reduced feature set for free.
Paid mode moves along the same lines as Eudora Pro, providing Eudora's full feature set for $50 (with a $10 rebate). Paid mode in the release version of 4.3 will be free to owners of Eudora Pro 4.2.
Sponsored mode, which is new to Eudora 4.3, combines the free price of Light mode with the full feature set of Paid mode, giving you the full power of Eudora Pro for no payment. The catch is that a 144 by 144 pixel advertising box displays a series of static ads that are visible at all times while you're in Eudora. Sponsored mode will be the default for the free downloadable version.
The addition of Sponsored mode is bound to raise controversy, since it is one of the first mainstream examples of advertising appearing outside of Web browsers. However, Sherlock has always displayed banner ads, and Sherlock 2 displays only ads from Apple or Apple partners - neither version offers a way to opt-out of the advertising, no matter how much money you pay Apple. Plus, Microsoft Outlook Express 5.0.1 for Windows reportedly displays advertising for users reading mail downloaded from Microsoft's advertising-supported Hotmail service.
Overall, though, I think this foray into advertising-supported software makes sense in a software industry increasingly driven by free software. Sponsored mode is merely an addition for Qualcomm - Eudora 4.3 still offers the equivalent of Eudora Pro and a significantly upgraded Eudora Light. So Eudora Pro 4.2 users gain a few new features for free. Eudora Light users gain a major upgrade for free. And if a new user doesn't feel like paying for Eudora but still wants all the features, Sponsored mode is there. After testing Eudora in Sponsored mode, I didn't find the ads particularly annoying - especially in comparison with many Web sites, because Qualcomm isn't accepting ads with animation or sound.
Other New Developments -- The main new feature in Eudora 4.3 is a History address book to which Eudora automatically adds the addresses of people whose address you type or to whose messages you reply. Names in the History address book work just like other nicknames you create, which simplifies sending mail to someone with whom you're having a discussion, but who otherwise isn't in your Address Book. Also new is a Link History window that tracks all the URLs you've visited, along with a variety of minor tweaks and bug fixes, including an indicator of the number of selected messages in the Size box and an undocumented feature that lets Eudora read and write specific settings to Internet Config even if connection to Internet Config is turned off. Just replace the setting with ««ICP»» (that's ICP surrounded by two double angle brackets on each side, which you get with Option-Backslash and Shift-Option-Backslash). This feature is useful for automatically switching SMTP server settings in Eudora when you switch locations with the Location Manager. Qualcomm also plans to add tools to import mail and addresses from other email programs before Eudora 4.3's official release in the first quarter of 2000.
System requirements for the Eudora 4.3 public beta include a PowerPC-based Mac (68K support is still under consideration) with 1,800K of RAM running System 7.1.2 or later with the Text Encoding Converter. The download weighs in at 5.9 MB for the Mac (or 7.5 MB for Windows, if you also use Eudora there). Note that this beta software: you use it at your own risk and with the understanding that you'll report problems to Qualcomm. In the interests of disclosure, also note that I wrote "Eudora for 4.2 Windows & Macintosh" from Peachpit Press.