Microsoft has not only taken Exchange Labs, its hosted email service aimed at university and college users, to the next level, but also rebranded the offering entirely in the process. On the way to Exchange 14, the next iteration of Exchange, the evolution of Exchange Labs is synonymous with the introduction of Outlook Live, which was unveiled at the end of the past week. But the new moniker is not the sole change, as Microsoft introduced a range of new features and improvements, focused on making the service more user friendly, but also to deliver additional performance and increase productivity. According to Microsoft, Outlook Live has in excess of 3.5 million users with Live@edu addresses.
“One of the biggest features we're announcing today is multi-browser support for the premium version of Outlook Web Access (OWA). With Exchange 14, you can access the premium version of OWA or Outlook Live with Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer. We’ve always supported all browsers with what we call 'OWA Light', a simpler version of OWA. The difference now is that you can get the full rich experience with drag ‘n drop & the rest of that AJAX-y goodness in all three browsers,” revealed KC Lemson, User Experience Manager for Exchange.
Lemson indicated that the concept of openness is in fact an integral part of Exchange's DNA. Adding support for rival browsers such as Firefox and Safari on top of Internet Explorer for Outlook Live is yet another example of Exchange's openness, which also includes Exchange ActiveSync licensing, and support for iPhone and Nokia phones on top of Windows Mobile devices.
“One of the things we're doing in E14 to address [the email overload] is introducing a new, turbo-charged conversation view. Although I get easily a hundred messages to me a day, they are usually part of the same 15 or 20 threads, so I use the new conversation view to make it far easier to keep track of the entire discussion at a time instead of letting the old ones slowly accrete in my inbox. So for me, conversations lets me cut down the items I have to deal with from 100 unique email messages to say ~20 conversations, cutting 80% of the clutter - and we're just getting started on that problem,” Lemson added.
At the bottom of this article, in the embedded video, you will be able to see Ian Hameroff, Senior Technical Product Manager for Exchange, demoing the new features. Hameroff also shows off the new integrated instant messaging and presence capabilities. Outlook Live delivers centralized messages via Windows Live Messenger and Microsoft Office Communicator.