Microsoft plans on releasing the beta of its Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1 in June, bringing a number of changes to user interface, integrated archiving and other areas.
"SP1 will include fixes and tweaks in areas you've helped us identify, including a roll-up of the roll-ups we've released to date," team member Michael Atalla wrote on the Microsoft Exchange Team Blog April 7. "I also wanted to flag some of the feature enhancements we're excited to bring to you with SP1, including archiving and discovery enhancements, [OWA] Outlook Web App ... improvements, mobile user and management improvements, and some highly sought-after additional UI for management tasks."
The SP1 beta will be offered for download in North America in June.
SP1 enhances Exchange Server's archiving functionality, allowing administrators "to provision a user's Personal Archive to a different mailbox database from their primary mailbox," according to Atalla, and in effect implementing tiered storage for certain types of e-mail. Historical e-mail data from .pst files can also be imported directly into Exchange.
Administrators and IT pros can also use a new feature in SP1 to create Retention Policy Tags via the Exchange Management Console, automating e-mail archiving and deletion. The SP1 adds search preview, search result deduplication and support for annotation of reviewed items as new features for Multi-Mailbox Search. The updated Exchange Server 2010 will also support access to a user's Personal Archive with Outlook 2007.
New UI enhancements to the Exchange Management Console and Exchange Control Panel include the ability to configure Transport Rules and Journal Rules in ECP as well as provision and configure its Personal Archive.
OWA will also undergo some changes in SP1. "With new work to prefetch message content, the OWA reading experience becomes faster. With delete, mark as read and categorize operations running asynchronously, these actions feel instantaneous to the user," Atalla wrote. "We've also made sure that certain long-running operations, such as attaching a very large file, will not block the rest of the OWA experience, protecting the user from irritating Web UI hang-ups. You'll see a number of other UI improvements as well to declutter a bit."
Microsoft originally announced the worldwide launch of Exchange Server 2010 in November 2009, on the opening day of the TechEd Europe conference in Berlin. With a nod toward corporate IT budgets shriveled in the wake of the global recession, Microsoft at the time touted the platform as a way for enterprises to increase their efficiency and cost savings; specifically, Microsoft said the platform had baked-in features such as a unified approach to data backup and larger individual mailboxes that would prevent businesses from needing to seek those services elsewhere.
Microsoft finds itself challenged in the messaging and collaboration arena by vendors such as Cisco Systems, which announced the release of Cisco WebEx Mail the same month, and Mozilla, which rolled out Thunderbird 3, the next version of its open-source e-mail foundation. Microsoft also has a branding competitor of sorts in Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which allows Google Apps users to access their messages using the Outlook interface.