Exchange 12 has officially entered Beta 1. As an official Microsoft geek, I’m pretty excited since Microsoft is going to be supporting integrated messaging with this release. Which means that you will have faxing, voicemail and email all under one platform. That is great news for users which have wanted easy access to all of their collaborating tools for years. It’s also great news for administrators that have had to rely on a hodge podge of third party products that only mostly work in order to accomplish unified messaging. It’s not so great for those third party providers, competitors in the messaging space (here’s looking at you IBM) or voice system administrators which are slowly getting squeezed out by network admins with the growing use of VoIP anyway.
One aspect of Exchange 12 which has me somewhat puzzled is news that it will only be available on 64-bit systems. Microsoft has devoted huge resources in ensuring their customers adapt the latest and greatest releases; it seems couter-intuitive that they would place such a large barrier to entry on its flagship product. (in my experience, more people have migrated off of Novell so that they can run Exchange instead of GroupWise rather than any desire to run the Microsoft operating system)
Does Microsoft think that Exchange 12 is going to be such a killer app that people will be willing to fork over the greater upgrade costs in order to get it? I’m guessing that they will be wrong and that a 32-bit version will be released within six months of the official release of Exchange 12.
I think that 64-bit servers are inevitable, but the current problem is that hardware is very expensive and software is limited. Microsoft looks like it wants to tip the scales in favor of wider availability; I’m just not convinced that they will be successful.