Microsoft announced the worldwide launch of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, the next version of its messaging and collaboration platform for businesses, on Nov. 9 at the opening day of the TechEd Europe conference in Berlin. Attempting to address businesses' concerns over slashed IT budgets, Microsoft is emphasizing the cost savings and increased efficiency of the updated platform, specifically its lower-cost storage model and enhanced productivity features.
Microsoft also announced the general release of Forefront Protection 2010 for Exchange Server, designed to protect against malware and decrease spam.
In conversations with eWEEK, Microsoft executives have touted the benefits of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 for end users, such as an increase in individual mailbox capacity from several hundred megabytes to between 2GB and 10GB. Other features include an integrated archive and unified approach to data backup-the latter of which potentially allows companies to save money by bringing functions like disaster recovery backup in-house.
Time-saving features of Exchange Server include speech-to-text preview, which transcribes the first part of a voice mail and e-mails it to the user's inbox, allowing the user to discern rapidly which messages are important. On the administrative side, a simple wizard can be used to create complex message rules and retention policies.
All that is why, Microsoft claimed, companies can save about 70 percent in TCO with Exchange Server 2010, at least over the previous iterations of the platform.
The announcement comes as Microsoft faces a new challenge in the e-mail arena from Cisco Systems, which announced Nov. 9 a hosted e-mail application, Cisco WebEx Mail, which allows customers to move from Microsoft Exchange yet continue to access e-mail through an Outlook client. Cisco WebEx Mail follows the earlier release of Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which allows Google Apps users to access their e-mail via the Outlook interface.
The 64-bit Exchange Server 2010, along with Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2, are part of Microsoft's push to persuade businesses into a tech refresh that will boost declining revenue trends. To that end, Microsoft has spent the past several months promoting the three flagship products as integral parts of what CEO Steve Ballmer termed "the new efficiency" during a company event in San Francisco in September.
In a Sept. 29 letter titled, again, "The New Efficiency," Ballmer outlined an argument that more efficient and cost-effective IT will "not only help companies respond to today's economic reality, it will lay the foundation for systems and solutions that connect people to information, applications and ... other people in new ways."
Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop continued on the "new efficiency" theme during the keynote address at TechEd Europe, saying, "Sustainable growth is not going to come from cutting costs" but from "improvements in productivity and new innovation."
Microsoft's earnings call on Oct. 23 tied the company's fortunes to hardware sales in the immediate future, perhaps increasing the pressure on Microsoft to push rapid adoption of the new versions of its flagship products. A number of analyst reports and surveys released over the summer indicated that CIOs and other IT pros, while interested in upgrading their IT infrastructure to run on Windows 7, may wait to begin the process until the end of 2010 thanks to slashed technology budgets.