Microsoft To Add Web-Like Access To Exchange

The next version of Microsoft's Exchange Server E-mail engine will let users address messages, files, data, and documents as if they were Web sites, a senior company official said yesterday at the company's annual TechEd developers conference in Dallas.

The new technology--dubbed "Web Store"--will be included in the "Platinum" release of Exchange, which entered technical beta earlier this month and is due out next year. Web Store will let users access everything on their hard drives or on the network using URLs, just like Web sites, said Bob Muglia, senior VP of the business productivity group.

The technology will dovetail with Microsoft's plans, unveiled Monday, to make the Web's XML language a native file format for all of its products.

Both moves are part of a broader set of initiatives through which Microsoft hopes to achieve its vision of greatly simplifying life for IT staffers, developers, and users as the world transitions to distributed networked applications.

One part of that vision, called Component Object Model Plus, or COM+, will be delivered in Windows 2000, and provides a set of built-in middleware functions, such as transaction processing, aimed at making communications among applications seamless and transparent to users. COM+ was first unveiled in September 1997 at the company's Professional Developers Conference in San Diego.

At Microsoft's Business Applications Conference in Las Vegas last September, officials debuted two other initiatives, Forms+ and Storage+, directed toward simplifying information access and storage.

The technologies demonstrated this week begin to fulfill at least a small part of those initiatives, company officials say. While officials were careful to say that none of the technologies demonstrated at TechEd constitute either Forms+ or Storage+ per se, they said the technologies represent steps toward those goals.

In a demonstration of a design tool code-named "Grizzly," a developer was able to easily add a calendar function to a Web page by simply adding the URL of a prewritten calendar object to the Web page's code. Grizzly will come out as an upgrade to Office 2000 Developer edition in the second half of the year, according to Muglia. "[Grizzly] will work with Exchange Platinum's workflow system," he said.

In another demo, a Microsoft official showed a technology code-named "Tahoe" that enables users to search for information no matter where it's located or what format it is in. It will be able to retrieve information in Web pages, E-mail messages, documents, databases, spreadsheets, or other formats. Tahoe will also be included in the Platinum release of Exchange.

Muglia also showed off a new user interface aimed at executive users. The interface, called the "digital dashboard," concentrates all of a user's most used features--such as a stock ticker, spreadsheet, E-mail, and calendar--on a single page.

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