First look: Exchange 2010 beta shines

Flexibility, reliability, client-side improvements, and ease of administration mark this major upgrade

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Outlook and OWA
Multiple browser support (Firefox, Safari, and IE) for OWA is my top new feature for users, but that's actually only a small part of the "anywhere access" story. Previously, OWA and Outlook for Windows Mobile lacked many handy capabilities that were built into the desktop Outlook 2007. The Exchange 2010 version of OWA will have full parity with Outlook 2010 by the time they both ship; I'm told that the Windows Mobile client will come close. OWA can even read rights-managed e-mails, which will make it much easier for remote employees and contractors to view sensitive messages without compromising security.

[ See Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 highlights. ]

The Outlook 2010 client and OWA both will have conversation view, and both will include integrated instant messaging and voice mail. Voice mail includes a text preview of the recorded message, automatically transcribed using Microsoft's voice-to-text engine. This would have completely blown me away when I saw it, except that Google Voice had just introduced a similar feature a few days earlier.

Outlook Web Access and Outlook 2010 both support voice-mail previews. Note the transcription of the voice-mail created automatically by Exchange 2010.

Role-based access control in Exchange 2010 allows administrators to delegate responsibilities to the appropriate parties. From the user's viewpoint, these capabilities are found in Exchange Control Panel (ECP). Even normal users without any special privileges assigned can update their personal information -- for example, mobile phone numbers -- via ECP. Users can also control who can see their calendar information and in what detail: I might want my supervisor to know when I have a doctor's appointment, but all a colleague needs to know to schedule a meeting with me is when I'm free and when I'm busy.

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