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The Future Of E-Mail

Ferris Research says that within five years, it will blend with an even wider range of collaaborative functions.

E-mail is mutating and within five years will both recede into a background of ubiquity and blend with an even wider range of collaborative functions, according to predictions made by a messaging-research firm.

While E-mail is increasingly encompassing technologies once not associated with simple text messaging, it's also becoming fuzzy around the edges, said Jeff Ubois, an analyst with Ferris Research, which specializes in covering E-mail and collaborative markets.

"E-mail functionality is receding into the background as a service available within many applications," Ubois said in an E-mailed statement. "E-mailing from other Microsoft Office applications and most browsers are obvious examples. E-mail is thus becoming a standard service that is always on, and always available, much like printing is."

While today's definition of E-mail takes into account once-separate technologies that range from file transfer, group scheduling, task management, and instant messaging, tomorrow's will include even more collaborative features. In the next five years, said Ubois, E-mail will encompass everything from brawnier publishing skills and rights management to compliance tools and identity management.

For example, mailing lists, which have been around for years--albeit typically run as separate applications on servers--will give way to services that better resemble Web publishing. "Clients will include richer subscription management tools," he predicted, and offer ways to move E-mail content, including attached files, to Web logs, known as blogs, for up-to-date posting of internal business information.

Content, spam, and virus filtering are quickly becoming standard in company E-mail systems, although they're sometimes added on by deploying third-party solutions. For example. Microsoft has yet to provide its own anti-spam filtering technology for its Exchange 2003 mail server, but will roll out an add-on early in 2004. Look for more such integrated solutions from the major E-mail vendors in the coming years.

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