Exchange 2010 tries to fend off Google Apps

Microsoft today let loose a new beta version of its flagship enterprise messaging software now called Exchange 2010. As Eric Lai reported for Computerworld, this is a big update and it looks to address some of the competition from Google.

Google Apps is a free, educational, or premium version of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google video and soon, hopefully, Google Voice. At $50 per user per year, it makes it very compelling alternative to Exchange especially for small to medium size companies.

I personally haven't tinkered with Exchange in a few years, but know that Redmond has a lot to fear from Google's Apps platform. One thing Exchange (or anything for that matter) doesn't do as well as Google is scale. Lai reported that Exchange 2010 will continue to use the Jet database engine to store messages instead of SQL. Many think that the Jet database is not up to the task and things get cloudy in huge organizations. Although Microsoft says that they have done a ton of innovation on Jet for Exchange 2010, it remains to be seen if scaling improves.

Exchange is also offering support for grouping e-mails in conversations. Some people love this about Google, while others hate it. It does seem to be a trend, however. The latest versions of Apple's Mail application have included the ability to group by conversation as well.

Microsoft is also following Google Voice's ability to transcribe voice messages from VoIP and put them in the user's inbox.

Redmond is also updating the OWA Web client to be on par with Outlook, but only for premium versions. You will, however, be able to log in via browsers besides Internet Explorer like Safari, Chrome and Firefox - Also a nod to Gmail.  Previously, you needed IE to get the most robust version of OWA.

Microsoft is also adding archiving to the Exchange package. In Google Apps a free Postini account allows for online e-mail archiving (3 months free) as well as the ability to send and receive e-mails through an on-premise archival box. Microsoft's solution will be more full featured than Google's, but obviously it is directed at much larger organizations.

Microsoft is offering this Exchange 2010 preview with SharePoint server, Visio, Project and Office. The offering is matched by Google Sites and Docs which are free to try and $50 per user per year.

Microsoft Exchange won't ever be able to touch that.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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