Microsoft announced on Thursday that the next version of the Exchange server, Exchange 14, will have a few useful new features including, finally, full support for browsers other than Internet Explorer.
Microsoft demo of Outlook Live
A Microsoft demo video shows full Web access to the Exchange e-mail server from Firefox running on Vista, and Safari on OS X. The Web access product is now called Outlook Live. University users of Microsoft's free hosted e-mail service (Exchange Labs) will get the beta of the service shortly. It appears that corporate users, who know of Web access to Exchange servers as Outlook Web Access, will get it when their companies upgrade to the Exchange 14 platform. Exchange 14 is expected either late in 2009 or in 2010.
Outlook Live will also give users a threaded conversation view, useful for tracking e-mails that get more than a few replies. And the online app will integrate IM (as Gmail does), although it will likely only connect to users of Microsoft instant messaging servers.
Since corporations are generally very conservative in their upgrade plans for electronic mail platforms, business users (like my CNET co-workers) should not expect access to Exchange 14 until, at the earliest, several months after the release of the product. Until then, users who want full-featured access from a Web browser to their Exchange e-mail servers are advised to keep a copy of Internet Explorer handy on their desktop.