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Microsoft to release Exchange 2010 beta on April 15

Microsoft is releasing for download the first public beta build of Exchange 2010 (the product formerly known as Exchange 14) on April 15, but the rest of the Office 2010 suite isn't going out to testers until the third quarter of 2009, Microsoft officials said this week.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor on

Microsoft is releasing for download the first public beta build of Exchange 2010 (the product formerly known as Exchange 14) on April 15. But the rest of the Office 2010 suite isn't going out to testers until the third quarter of 2009, Microsoft officials said this week.

The Softies shared a few more details on its plans for the next version of its Office client and server products, which, up until now, have been known officially as "Office 14" on April 14.

Microsoft is now acknowledging what a number of bloggers reported late last week: The products in the Office 14 wave all will be branded as Office 2010. Microsoft also is confirming officially that the client versions of the Office 2010 apps will be available in 32- and 64-bit flavors.

The "tech preview" release of the Office 2010 products coming in the third quarter (rumors still say summer 2009) are expected to be public releases that will be tested by "hundreds of thousands" of individuals, according to Microsoft. In January, Microsoft released an alpha version of its Office 2010 client and server products to a small group of selected testers.

The final version of Exchange 2010 is slated to be released before the end of calendar 2009, while the  Office 2010 client, SharePoint 2010 server, Office Web Applications, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 products aren't slated to go final until the first half of 2010 -- as CEO Steve Ballmer indicated earlier this year -- confirmed Julia White, Director of Exchange Product Management.

Microsoft is expecting as many as 1 million testers to download the beta of Microsoft's on-premise Exchange 2010 software from Microsoft's Web site, White said. Approximately 5 million testers already are dabbling with the cloud-based complement of Exchange 2010, in the form of Outlook Live, White said. (Outlook Live is available to academics and students only; it is a slightly modified version of the Exchange Online product that is available to the wider business and consumer community.)

The new Exchange release includes a new, integrated e-mail archive functionality, White said. It also includes a number of other new features, including:

  • MailTips: A feature designed to give users a warning "before they commit an e-mail faux pas such as sending mail to large distribution groups, to recipients who are out of the office or to recipients outside the organization," according to Microsoft
  • Voice Mail Preview: Functionality allowing users to see text previews of voice mail directly in Outlook.
  • Ignore Conversation: An "e-mail 'mute button' that "allows people to remove themselves from an irrelevant e-mail string, reducing unwanted e-mail and runaway reply-all threads"
  • Conversation View: A feature allowing users to combine related e-mail messages in a single conversation to reduce inbox clutter.
  • Call Answering Rules: Customizable call-routing menus with Exchange voice mail

The 2010 release of Office marks the first time in a long time -- and maybe ever (the Softies weren't sure of this themselves) -- that Microsoft is delivering Exchange Server separately from the rest of the suite.

(I asked White about Microsoft's delivery timetable for the next version of Office Communications Server, which, along with Exchange, is considered part of Microsoft's unified-communications suite. She said she wasn't sure. For now, I guess we can assume the OCS 2010 release will be delivered alongside the rest of the Office 14 wave, in 2010.)

One other aside, courtesy of White: Outlook Live is not the name of the Skyline mobile e-mail service that Microsoft is planning to target at small-business users. White said she didn't know what Skyline was and had no information on how it fit into Microsoft's future e-mail plans.

If any testers download the Exchange Server 2010 bits this week, I'd be interested hearing back on what you think of some of the new features....

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