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Microsoft show to lack product pizazz

Jun 02, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsMicrosoftMicrosoft Exchange

Microsoft’s annual TechEd conference will be longer on the Ed and shorter on the Tech this year: The software giant won’t make major product releases at the show.

Microsoft’s annual TechEd conference will be longer on the Ed and shorter on the Tech this year: The software giant won’t make major product releases at the show.

The conference, which is being held this week in Dallas, had been projected to be the launch pad for several key products, including Office 2003, Exchange Server 2003 and the first beta of Yukon, the next version of SQL Server.

Office 2003 was slowed by a number of software bugs and Microsoft has a refreshed beta 2 release planned for later this month, while a Yukon beta might not see light until later this summer or early fall, the company says.

The final code of Exchange 2003 won’t make it, either. At TechEd, Microsoft will make do by shipping the first-release candidate of the messaging platform. A release candidate is software deemed worthy of general availability but that will receive a final round of beta testing to shake out any remaining bugs. General availability is expected in late summer.

Microsoft will introduce new features for Exchange 2003, including standard and enterprise versions, deployment tools and an ROI calculator.

Also, users who test the release- candidate software can upgrade directly to the final release code without having to uninstall the beta software before installing the shipping code, which is the standard procedure.

“We are encouraging the use of the release candidate for planning and deployment of Exchange 2003,” says Missy Stern, product manager for Exchange.

The confidence Microsoft has in the beta code highlights the fact that Office is holding up Exchange, experts say. Office 2003 with its Outlook 2003 client is required to take advantage of a number of performance and remote access improvements available in Exchange.

Outlook supports a local cache feature, which lets users bring a portion of server data to their desktops; the ability to connect remotely to the server without the need for a VPN connection; and new bandwidth-friendly improvements that make communication with Exchange more efficient.

Exchange 2003 release candidate 1 (RC1) will work with the Office 2003 beta scheduled for late June, Stern says. Outlook clients from Office XP and 2000 also will work with Exchange 2003, but they will not support the new Exchange features.

The RC1 software will run on Windows 2000 or 2003, but only 2003 will support the VPN feature and a back-up feature called Volume Shadow Copy.

Exploring Jupiter

Also at the show, which will include 417 sessions and is expected to draw 10,000 attendees, Microsoft will give more details on Jupiter, a combination of BizTalk, Commerce and Content Management servers. Jupiter will form the foundation of Microsoft’s future business integration software based on .Net to compete with BEA Systems, IBM and Oracle.

Jupiter was introduced last year and is expected to ship in the middle of next year, but Microsoft has yet to get past the concept stage.

“We just don’t get Jupiter right now,” says Peter Pawlak, an analyst with independent research firm Directions of Microsoft. Pawlak says Microsoft has to lay out how it will integrate the three products with each other, as well as productivity applications such as InfoPath, an XML-based forms technology that is part of Office 2003. 

New for Exchange

At its TechEd conference, Microsoft will unveil features for Exchange Server 2003.
New featureDescription
Standard/Enterprise editionsStandard edition for smaller customers (50 to 5,000 users) and can be used to support remote access. Enterprise edition adds clustering and storage features.
ROI calculatorSpreadsheet tool from Nucleus Research to calculate ROI, TCO, payback period and net present value.
Deployment toolsMigration and co-existence tools for users moving from Exchange 5.5.