Microsoft is telling customers and system integrators that Exchange 2000 Server won't be generally available until the second half of next year, though the vendor says it's on track to sign off on the product's final code by the end of June.
The upgrade to Exchange Server 5.5 could vault Microsoft's groupware platform into the same league as Lotus Notes for companies building collaborative applications for delivery over the Web, according to users who've tested the product. Microsoft has promised to release Exchange 2000 to manufacturing during the first half of next year, but customers and developers say the software won't be available for rollout until August or September, six to seven months after the Feb. 17 release date of Windows 2000. Exchange 2000, running on the Windows 2000 operating system and used in conjunction with Office 2000, constitutes a key piece of Microsoft's emerging knowledge-management strategy.
"I'd rather they wait and take the extra time than put out a product that isn't ready," says one IT consultant in the Northeast. The majority of his customers aren't likely to defect to Notes because of a few months' delay, he adds. "Exchange 2000 is the heart and soul of Microsoft's collaboration movement. I think it's a little project slip. But my clients are not going to be dismayed at this release, because I've been building it into their expectations."
Doug Stumberger, product manager for Exchange Server at Microsoft, says the vendor's intention to release final code to manufacturing by the end of the first half hasn't changed. "It could be customers are hearing the wrong dates, or that they're confused about availability vs. release to manufacturing," he says. "Internally, we are still marching toward a first-half date." Channel availability typically lags release of final code by five to eight weeks, he says.
With Exchange 2000, Microsoft has essentially rewritten its groupware platform around a Web Store database that lets companies running the software on Windows 2000 call messages and Office documents in an Exchange folder using Internet protocols. That lets IT managers push applications to users across an intranet or extranet without handwriting lots of plumbing code.
In October, Microsoft released the third beta version of Exchange 2000. The company plans to release another beta, or a near-final release candidate, before it ships the final code, according to Stumberger. Right now, the software is "moving into the period of getting the bug counts down," he says.