Microsoft has provided the first peek at its next wave of Office-related products with the release of the public beta of its Exchange Server 2010 – and confirmed that the Microsoft Office 2010 suite will hit the shelves in the first half of 2010.

Danie Gordon, a product manager at Microsoft South Africa, says the Microsoft Office family will enter technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and become available in the first half of 2010. It will include applications like Office 2010, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010.
Microsoft says the suite is designed to give people a consistent experience across devices, making it easier to create and edit documents and collaborate from any location.
"The line between home and work has blurred, and people want more choice and flexibility in how, where and when they work," says Gordon. "People will be more productive across the PC, phone and browser, IT professionals can choose to deploy and manage servers on-premises or from the cloud, and developers get more opportunities to build innovative solutions and grow their business."
Exchange Server 2010 will become available in the second half of 2009. A public beta of the server is available for download starting today.
Gordon says Exchange Server 2010 – the first server in a new generation of Microsoft server technology built from the ground up to work on-premises and as an online service – will help lower communications costs, improve user productivity and transform e-mail archiving. It introduces a new integrated e-mail archive and features to help reduce costs and improve the user experience.
"Exchange 2010 ushers in the next generation of Microsoft unified communications software as the first server designed from inception to work both on-premises and as an online service," he says. "It offers new archiving and end-user innovations that will help companies save money and employees save time."
Microsoft says Exchange 2010 will help organisations reduce costs with more flexible deployment and management options, protect communications and improve e-mail user productivity.
Exchange 2010 provides organisations with the same enterprise-grade capabilities whether deployed on-premises or as a service from Microsoft or partners – or as a mix of both.
For customers deploying the server, the new release simplifies the way organisations provide always-on communications and disaster recovery, meaning administrators spend less time managing their e-mail system.
Exchange 2010 further improves performance running on lower-cost direct-attached storage, enabling organisations to reduce storage costs by up to 85% without sacrificing performance or reliability.
The new e-mail archive is a powerful tool to address compliance issues, says Gordon. As e-mail volume grows, companies must address increasing compliance, legal and e-discovery concerns, but today, according to Osterman Research, only 28% of organisations currently archive their e-mail content. The new solution makes it easier to store and query e-mail across the organisation.
The new Exchange 2010, together with Microsoft Outlook 2010, will give users more control over their communications with features like MailTips, which warn users before they commit an e-mail faux pas such as sending mail to large distribution groups, to recipients who are out of the office or to recipients outside the organisation.
It also offers the ability to preview voice mail directly in Outlook in a text format, while the "Ignore Conversation" is a e-mail "mute button" that allows people to remove themselves from an irrelevant e-mail string, reducing unwanted e-mail and runaway reply-all threads.