Microsoft Upgrading Exchange, Outlook

The next release of Microsoft's Exchange messaging server will feature an enhanced Outlook client and integrated mobile capabilities.

Microsoft Corp. will introduce a new version of its Exchange messaging server next year, codenamed Titanium, that will feature an improved Outlook client and integrated Microsoft Mobile Information Server technology chief among its features.

Titanium, due for release in mid-2003 according to Microsoft Exchange product manager Chris Baker, will include the Outlook 11 client. This version will feature an updated user interface, which will be divided into three vertical columns, similar to a newspaper layout, Baker said.

Those columns will display, left-to-right, list of folders, the Inbox, and the preview pane.

Other new features in Outlook 11 will include improved capabilities for organizing and categorizing messages as well as improvements in the ability to flag messages for future action and to search for those messages. The Outlook upgrade will also feature the ability to switch to offline mode when disconnected without having to close out of Outlook and re-open the application.

"We want to give our users an improved user experience," said Baker, in Redmond, Wash.

Titanium will also include Microsofts Mobile Information Server, known as MIS, integrated at the server level, plans Microsoft first indicated in February. Exchange and MIS will share the server and the same set of schema updates, according to Baker. MIS is currently a separate product which requires extensive integration before it can deliver mobile capabilities to Exchange. In Titanium, the products would be integrated "out of the box," allowing for easier integration and less demands of server overhead, Baker said.

Other features of Titanium include ease of merging Active Directories from separate Exchange servers, particularly useful for companies in post-merger system integrations. It will have new support for faster backup of mailboxes to disk and capabilities to hold more mailboxes per server, though Baker said it was not clear yet how great a scalability improvement would offer.

Titanium will also enhance Exchanges security infrastructure for third-party anti-virus and anti-spam vendors to build their solutions on, though Baker did not give any specifics as to what those improvements would entail.

"These are all product enhancements that will continue to drive down the cost of ownership for our customers," Baker said.

One feature Titanium will not include is Exchange IM, the instant messaging client now within Exchange. A separate product group within Microsoft focused on real-time computing applications and headed by Jill Allchin, is developing a new instant messaging application based on Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the same technology used in the troubled Windows Messenger, which will replace Exchange IM, according to Baker.

The branding and packaging for the new IM client has not yet been disclosed.