Exchange 2003 set for RTM this week

Microsoft Corp. is expected this week to release to manufacturing the final version of Exchange 2003 and unveil a per-user and per-device pricing model similar to that of Windows Server 2003.

The release of Exchange 2003 comes four weeks after the company shipped the final beta of the server, or the so-called Release Candidate, at its annual TechEd conference. Exchange 2003 will be generally available in August to customers with enterprise agreement licenses. General retail availability will be later this year, according to a Microsoft spokesman.

The per-user licensing option, which carries a client access license (CAL) fee of US$67, allows a user with multiple devices, such as a laptop and handheld, to access the server from either of those devices. The per-device pricing allows access by multiple users from a single machine.

The per-device CAL also is US$67 and will help Microsoft battle rival IBM Corp./Lotus in the race to supply low-cost e-mail access to “deskless” workers, such as those on a shop floor. IBM/Lotus made its move in May with the introduction of its Workplace Messaging e-mail server.

Microsoft also is offering an External Connector License that allows unlimited connection to a single server by non-employees, such as business partners or school alumni.

The pricing of the base server is the same as for Exchange 2000. The Standard Edition is priced at US$699 per CPU and is targeted at 50 to 5,000 users. The Standard Edition will support Outlook Web Access, the browser client that runs off the Exchange server. The Enterprise Edition is priced at US$3,999 per CPU and includes support for clustering and storage.

The general availability of Exchange 2003 is expected to coincide with the release of Office 2003, which includes the Outlook 2003 client.

Outlook is required to take advantage of a number of performance and remote access improvements available in Exchange 2003. Outlook 2003 supports a local cache feature, which allows users to cache server data on the desktop; the ability to connect remotely to the server without the need for a VPN link; and new bandwidth friendly improvements that make communication with Exchange 2003 more efficient.

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