As I first reported in WinInfo Daily UPDATE this past summer, Microsoft announced today that the company will market the next version of Microsoft Exchange Server (code-named Titanium) as Exchange Server 2003 when it releases the product later this year. The second beta of the long-awaited upgrade to the company's best-selling messaging and personal information manager (PIM) server product, Exchange 2003 beta 2 is now also available to the public through a free download or a CD-ROM order, the company says. Microsoft is already deploying Exchange 2003 beta 2 internally and at dozens of the company's partners' sites.

"Our customers expect their communications infrastructure to do more than just reliably provide email," said Mohsen Al-Ghosein, vice president of Microsoft's Exchange Server business unit. "They expect it to be a consistent enabler of business value. That means increasing the productivity of information workers and IT staff, while reducing ongoing operational costs, and doing it with rock-solid dependability and enhanced security. The combination of Exchange Server 2003, the Outlook 11 client, and Windows .NET Server 2003 represents the most important and exciting end-to-end messaging solution yet for business customers."

Exchange 2003 includes several features that Microsoft says will improve information-worker productivity. A new cached mode synchronizes users' data in the background, ensuring that the local copies of their mailboxes are always up-to-date. Microsoft has significantly upgraded Exchange's Messaging API (MAPI) protocol to use far less network bandwidth than before, resulting in better performance. And a new Outlook Web Access (OWA) Web-based client almost completely duplicates the Outlook 11 UI when viewed with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE). Exchange 2003 also supports Pocket PC and Windows Powered Smartphone mobile devices with technologies such as iMode, Compact HTML (cHTML), and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) 2.0.

Exchange 2003 takes advantage of Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003 technologies such as Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) and eight-node clustering to offer improved capabilities. And new features such as new email-message-protection capabilities, connection filtering, and an improved Virus Scanning API (VS API) make the product more secure. In addition, as a result of the Trustworthy Computing initiative, Exchange 2003 ships in locked-down mode with nonessential services turned off by default.

Microsoft will release Exchange 2003 and Outlook 11 in mid-2003, after the April launch of Win.NET Server 2003 and Visual Studio .NET 2003. For more information and the free beta 2 download, visit the Microsoft Web site.