Sunday, October 23, 2005

Microsoft Exchange 2003 SP 3 Released

If you've been waiting for Exchange 2003 SP 3, the wait is over. Last week, Microsoft finally released the service pack to the public. (Microsoft Exchange 2xxx has been a very successful product for Microsoft with around 130 million client licenses sold.)

The biggest feature for this release is the “Direct Push” of e-mails to mobile devices. This eliminates the need for Microsoft to notify the remote device of new emails via text messages (contacts, calendar appointments, and tasks can also be automated).

This feature is already offered by Microsoft's competitor in this space, Research In Motion, via their BlackBerry device. With this latest release of Exchange, Microsoft is closing the feature gap between BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.

As I mentioned previously, I went to Microsoft for an executive briefing a few weeks ago. While I was out there, I hooked up with an old friend who works in the Windows Mobile group. He knows about my passion for shiny toys and was able to set up a private meeting with one of the Program Managers/Evangelists in the group. It was a lot of fun to see the things they are currently working on and what might be coming in the future to a retailer near you.

During the meeting, he showed me how SP3 uses “Direct Push” to get e-mails to the devices. One word: slick! He also showed how easy it was to reset devices back to factory settings using Exchange and Windows Mobile 5.0 operating system. This will be a great feature to protect an organization like mine if a device gets stolen from a traveling employee. It also allows the administrator to direct the Windows Mobile operating system to wipe itself if the wrong password is entered too many times.

We also talked about many other things, but thanks to that non-disclosure agreement I signed, I am unable to share it with you. I can tell you that it was a great meeting and I would say this PM/Evangelist has one of the coolest jobs in the world--toys, technology, toys, and more technology—fun! (And he gets paid for it--can you believe it?)

Anyway, back to Exchange. Another significant new feature in SP3 is support for Sender ID, an e-mail authentication protocol that Microsoft is backing as a solution to spam. Other minor features includes better data compression techniques, the ability to support the S/MIME standard for encryption on handheld devices, improved anti-spam filtering, and an increase in the size of mailbox storage limits to 75GB.

I think this is a great release and a good product, but Microsoft needs to work on naming. These features are significant enough--and will have a large enough impact on the market, that Microsoft should have made this a numbered/dated release (i.e., Exchange 2005) rather than SP3.


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