Microsoft Exchange 15 to include offline OWA access: Sources

What's coming in the Exchange Server 15 component of Microsoft's next wave of Office wares? Here's some scuttlebutt from my sources.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

There've been a number of leaks about some of the products in the coming Office 15 wave. But there's been nothing (that I've found, at least) about Exchange 15, the next version of Microsoft's on-premises e-mail, calendaring and contacts server.

Until now, at least.

I've been collecting any tidbits I could find from my contacts with access to the Office 15 Technical Preview bits which Microsoft began releasing to testers earlier this year. (Microsoft just this week provided some of those private testers with an Office 15 refresh, from what I hear.)

Keep in mind that Microsoft officials are not commenting on features or plans for Office 15 and won't until the company releases the public beta of Office 15 this summer. (Possibly in June.)

With that caveat, here's what I'm hearing.

Microsoft is planning to focus less on communication and more on collaboration with Exchange 15. The thinking, supposedly, is Exchange 15 will provide users with a next-gen mailbox experience. Sources are saying there will be team mailboxes that integrate directly with SharePoint as part of the coming release.

Other interesting scuttlebutt: There is going to be an offline mode in Outlook Web App -- the Web-based Exchange e-mail client that was formerly known as "Outlook Web Access. Outlook Web Access currently allows users to view their mail via IE, Safari and/or Firefox. (In spite of its similar sounding name, Outlook Web Access is not one of Microsoft's Office Web Apps -- the Webified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.)

With Exchange 15, my contacts are saying, Outlook Web App offline mode will be enabled by HTML5. For now, sounds like it's accessible only via IE 10 (the version of Internet Explorer that will be baked into Windows 8 and available separately for Windows 7). The "offline access courtesy of HTML5" idea sounds plausible to me. That's how Google made Google Docs available offline and has been rumored as a way that Hotmail may be available offline, too (at some point).

Extensibility also sounds like a big theme for Exchange 15/OWA 15, too. Remember the codename Agaves concept -- the idea that HTML5 and JavaScript can be used to build Web extensions for Office 15 client and SharePoint 15? It sounds from my contacts that Microsoft may be pushing this with OWA, too, meaning users could view/run apps inside messages, too. Think about being able to watch a YouTube video clip inside an OWA message....

One more alleged feature coming to Office 15, according to my contacts, is the ability to use the Microsoft FAST enterprise search technology to do organization-wide searches across Exchange 15, Lync 15 and SharePoint 15.

If even only some of these features come to be in the final Exchange 15 product (which I'd wager will be called Exchange Server 2013 once Microsoft releases it to manufacturing, possibly before the end of this calendar year), it will be a pretty major update to the long line of Exchange releases. Before that happens, Microsoft is holding a Microsoft Exchange Conference in late September this year.

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