Microsoft has released a public beta of the next iteration of Exchange, called Exchange Server 2010. This latest release of Microsoft's collaborative and messaging software, currently winning the market share battle with IBM's Lotus Notes, is the first out of the gate among Microsoft's upcoming Office-related products that include SharePoint 2010 and the rebranded Office 2010 (formerly referred to as Office 14). Exchange 2010 will become generally available in the second half of 2009.Microsoft touts Exchange 2010 as the "first server in a new generation of Microsoft server technology built from the ground up to work on-premises and as an online service." IT professionals have the choice of deploying and managing Exchange 2010 themselves on-premises or allowing Microsoft to manage it as an online, hosted service. Or, customers can do a mix of both. If users choose to deploy the software themselves, Microsoft says that it has improved the method by which data is written to and read from storage disks, thus allowing IT pros to archive Exchange data to cheaper DAS (direct-attached storage) rather than a more expensive SAN (storage area network). This will reduce e-mail storage costs by up to 85 percent without sacrificing performance or reliability, according to Microsoft. Another key feature new to Exchange 2010 is integrated e-mail archiving. "Based on independent research, only three out of 10 companies archive their e-mails, though six out of ten consider it a priority," says Julia White, Microsoft's director of Exchange marketing. "What happens then is too often you have important e-mails scattered on hard drives and not on the Exchange server." Aimed to protect and preserve valuable information and help meet compliance rules, the e-mail archive feature in Exchange will allow IT pros to store and access e-mails across an organization using the Exchange software that they already use, says White. An additional priority for Microsoft with Exchange 2010 is helping users be more productive and less distracted. The productivity features Microsoft has added to Exchange 2010, and Outlook 2010, include: MailTips: Helps protect against information leaks and excess e-mail messages by warning users before they commit an e-mail blunder like sending an inappropriate e-mail to a large distribution group or a sensitive e-mail to someone outside an organization.
Voice Mail Preview: Allows users to view text transcripts of voice mails directly in Outlook. Ignore Conversation: A "mute button" for e-mail, this feature allows users to remove themselves from an irrelevant e-mail string, thus eliminating a pile-up of unwanted e-mails. Conversation View: This feature, made popular by Google's gmail, combines related e-mail messages in a single conversation to reduce inbox clutter. Along with the Exchange 2010 beta announcement, Microsoft also revealed that the next wave Microsoft Office-related products will include Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Microsoft Visio 2010 and Microsoft Project 2010. All products in the next wave are scheduled to be released in beta in the third quarter of 2009 and be generally available in the first half of 2010. The public beta of Exchange Server 2010 is now available for download here. Do you Tweet? Follow me on Twitter. (twitter.com/smoneill)