Exchange 2013 to RTM in mid-November 2012?

Well, if the information revealed by IDG and other publications is correct, Exchange 2013 (Exchange 15, don’t you know) will make its debut alongside the rest of the Office Wave 15 products in early 2013. Mary Jo Foley has previously reported that the "whisper date" (Microsoft leak) for the Office 15 Release to Manufacturing date is in mid-November. RTM is the point when the engineers have concluded that the code is solid enough to be unleashed into production and so the code is formally released to be made available to customers through various channels. 

The graphic describing the product roadmap revealed in the articles, which Microsoft apparently released to their Partner Network confirms that the "general availability" date for Office 15 products is in the end-2012/early 2013 timeframe. 

Microsoft has traditionally announced RTM a tad ahead of actual product availability so the November and early 2013 dates might well correspond to the formal product release (November) and the time when you can actually deploy (early 2013). No doubt the powers that be will reveal all when Microsoft executives speak at MEC 2012 in Orlando next September. I think that by the time MEC rolls around the Office 15 dates will be a very open secret and that it’ll then be simply a matter of lighting the fireworks and opening the champagne to celebrate the arrival of Exchange 2013. We’ll see.

It's important to say that dates in documents like the one that appeared on Microsoft's Partner Network are always liable to change for different reasons. For instance, a high bug count might have to be resolved before a product reaches the desired quality level. It's also possible that customer feedback would cause features to be adjusted or even dropped, which would also delay matters. However, although the dates represent estimates to which Microsoft cannot be held, it's also true that competition or the desire to meet internal goals can drive companies to release products at predetermined dates. 

Of course, Kevin Allison, the GM of Exchange engineering, is due to keynote at TEC 2012 in San Diego at the end of April and he might have something more to say about the progress of Exchange 2013 development. I doubt that he will say anything about the RTM date but he could well drop some valuable hints about when a public beta might appear as well as describe some of the important engineering investments that Microsoft has chosen for Exchange 2013.

Another interesting tidbit to come out this week was the fact that Microsoft has extended Outlook 2007’s (with Service Pack 3) mainstream support period from April 9, 2012 to October 9, 2012. This means that Outlook 2007 will not exhaust its extended support until October 2017 and by that time I imagine that quite a few people will have figured out whether they are able to deploy Outlook 2013 or whatever the current version is then (Outlook 2016?). Mind you, there are still tons of users who run Outlook 2003, despite it slipping rapidly towards its formal end-of-life in April 2014. I doubt that Microsoft will support Outlook 2003 as a valid client for Exchange 2013, just like they don’t support it as an Office 365 client.

Another update arrived in the form of a new version (18.9) of the Exchange 2010 Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator (that's quite a mouthful, Ross). This is a great tool that every administrator that has anything to do with Exchange 2010 should get to know, if not to love!

Finally, I was excited when I learned that Microsoft had released Service Pack 2 for Outlook 2011 for the Mac. At least, I was until I read the list of improvements that SP2 includes. It's frankly disappointing to see that it includes fixes such as making sure that Turkey is a valid time zone (I know, critical for sales in Ankara and vitally important to people in Turkey - I should appreciate this) and that free/busy data displays properly for the citizens of fine places like Perth in Western Australia. However, what I had really wanted to see was some evidence that Outlook 2011 for Mac was closing the functionality gap with Outlook 2010 for PC and it just didn't happen. Perhaps it's all part of the cunningly disguised master plan that will be revealed when Office 15 debuts. I just can't wait!

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Tony Redmond

Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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