Microsoft on Monday made available the first public beta of its latest Exchange Server and released the official name of the software. Microsoft\u00a0on Monday made available the first public beta of its latest Exchange Server and released the official name of the software.Code-named Titanium when the first private beta was launched last summer, the server will be known now as Exchange Server 2003. The software is expected to ship in the middle of this year.Exchange 2003 is a fit-and-finish release coming on the heels of Exchange 2000 and is an interim step toward a version of Exchange under development code-named Kodiak.Kodiak incorporates a universal data store technology that will debut with the Yukon release of SQL Server, Microsoft\u2019s database software due to ship by early next year. The Yukon technology is key to Microsoft\u2019s Web services strategy in that it will create a single technology for data stored by Microsoft\u2019s back-end servers. But the change also means corporate customers may have to rewrite Exchange applications to work against the new data store.Both Microsoft and chief rival IBM\/Lotus, which late last year released Domino R6, are providing new versions of their software targeted at consolidation, cost savings and administrative efficiencies before making leaps to major changes in their platforms. IBM is replacing the Domino store with its DB2 database and integrating the collaboration server with its WebSphere Application Server.Exchange 2003 will focus on polishing the user interface, integrating mobile support, aligning with real-time collaboration features being added to the Windows operating system and refining administrative controls. The software integrates closely with the Outlook client in Office 11, which will ship in the same time frame.Noticeably absent is support for instant messaging, which is being removed from Exchange and added to the base operating system in Windows .Net Server 2003, which is expected to ship in April. The instant-messaging support, part of a set of collaboration features code-named Greenwich, will ship sometime after .Net Server 2003.The Beta 2 of Exchange 2003 is feature-complete for the most part, according to Microsoft.\u201cThere may be a couple of things that we add in depending on feedback, but for the most part the feature set is complete,\u201d says Jim Bernardo, product manager for the .Net enterprise server group at Microsoft. He also said the user interface enhancements that were not active in Beta 1, such as Outlook Web Access, are available in Beta 2.Microsoft already has a production deployment of Exchange 2003 supporting nearly 30,000 users, according to Bernardo.He said the company does not plan another beta and expects to have a release candidate in the late spring. A release candidate is software that is deemed worthy of general release but is exposed to a final round of testing.Exchange 2003 will provide a new vertical three-pane user interface that cuts the screen into three columns, which Microsoft claims will make it easier to manage e-mail. It also incorporates the former Mobile Information Server 2002, which supports mobile clients. The technology will automatically update the schema in Active Directory to support mobile access to Exchange from iMode, cHTML, WAP 2.0 microbrowsers, and Windows Powered Pocket PC and SmartPhone devices.On the administrative side, Microsoft is adding a backup feature called Volume Shadow Copy, which creates a backup on disk. Exchange server also will benefit from the eight-node clustering supported in .Net Server 2003.Those features will be available only when Exchange 2003 is run on .Net Server 2003. The software also can run on Windows 2000 server.On the security side, Microsoft is enhancing its content blocking and virus scanning application-programming interface.Beta 2 of Exchange Server 2003 can be\u00a0downloaded.The Exchange 2003 Beta 2 Kit on CD, which includes Exchange 2003 Beta 2, Windows .Net Server 2003 RC2, Office 11 Beta 1, and a resource CD, can be ordered for a fee made up only of shipping, handling, and any applicable taxes.