BOSTON — UPDATED: Microsoft said it is putting the finishing touches on the next generation of its e-mail server and will pump out the second beta of Exchange Server 2007 in July.
Announced here at Tech Ed 2006, the software is oriented for the mobile worker: Exchange Server 2007 will support searches on a smartphone or handheld computer, render HTML in e-mail over the device and allow users to perform their own remote device wipe.
The software was designed around Microsoft’s plan for unified messaging, an approach that allows users to receive their e-mail, voice mail and faxes from their inbox so they have one place to access for their information.
Megan Kidd, group product manager for Exchange, said this approach is necessary because more people are accessing their information from multiple devices and access points.
“We want to make sure the users have access to all their information whether they’re using their cell phone, or mobile device, or at home on their personal computer, or using a kiosk,” Kidd said during a briefing here.
The new software also includes a speech-enabled auto-attendant, which is essentially an automated administrative assistant that allows users to use their cell phone to get their calendar, contact list and e-mail read to them.
In a demo earlier today, Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of Exchange at Microsoft, used the auto-attendant to access his voice mail, instant messaging, e-mail contact list and calendar from his phone, with Microsoft Outlook Web Access, which was powered by Exchange Server 2007.
Exchange Server 2007 also permits older searches, allowing users to find an e-mail that was sent to them two months ago from their mobile smartphone or handheld computing device.
Beta 2 handles meeting requests more efficiently, allowing users to not only accept or decline a test, but provide reasons why, or forward the request to someone else from a mobile device.
Another improvement, self-service remote device wipe, allows users to erase the information stored on their devices in case the smartphone is lost or stolen.
Previously, a user had to contact an IT staffer to have this done for them.
Exchange Server 2007 also includes a management shell to make it easier for administrators to add multiple mailboxes in one shot with a single script.
Security features also abound in the beta, including a version of Microsoft Antigen for Exchange, and other anti-virus perks like safe sender aggregation, quarantine and Exchange hosted filtering to keep out spam.
Exchange Server 2007 beta 2 will be generally available in July, with the final bits arriving in late 2006 or early 2007, Kidd confirmed.
Exchange Server 2007 comes at an interesting time in the collaborative digital communications space, which has been a multi-billion-dollar market for years.
The market has larger stakes now more than ever because digital communications are converging to the point where customers are demanding the ability to access voice, video, data and applications on any mobile device, at any time.
Based on the demonstrations shown at Tech Ed, Microsoft has the technology pieces in place to convince customers to migrate to Exchange Server 2007.
But upgrades and migrations are rarely painless, and the Redmond, Wash., software giant has to navigate some potentially tricky waters because it has decided to release Exchange Server 2007 for 64-bit x86 servers, running Windows Server 2003 x64 Edition.
This is the first Microsoft product to be available only in 64-bit form. Microsoft attributes the strategy shift to the much higher memory support in 64-bit systems (16 petabytes vs. 4 gigabytes in a 32-bit system).
Microsoft needs to give the customers what they want because IBM and Oracle are waiting to snap up dissatisfied customers with their Lotus and Collaboration Suite portfolios, respectively.