March 4, 1997 6:15 PM ET
Exchange 5.0 goes gold
By Paula Rooney

  Microsoft Corp.'s much-anticipated Exchange 5.0--the Internet/intranet version of the workgroup server--went gold last week and is now in manufacturing, sources close to the company confirmed today. It will be widely available in the channel this month, sources said.

Exchange 5.0--which supports a string of Internet protocols, including POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3), HTTP/HTML, Lightweight Directory Access Protocol, Network News Transport Protocol and Secure Sockets Layer--was originally expected for delivery by year's end. Nevertheless, beta testers said the final product, being positioned for a major rollout at Internet World in Los Angeles next week, is well worth the wait. Exchange 5.0 also comes with a new client called Outlook that will offer more workgroup functionality, such as task and personal information management features.

"It's rock solid," said one beta tester who requested anonymity, noting that browser access into Exchange folders and message in-box, even Netscape Communications Corp.'s Navigator, is functioning well. "You can see more development of forms and applications that can tie easily into a corporate intranet. No need for separate MAPI [Messaging API] developers and ActiveX developers."

Microsoft Corp.'s MAPI, after years of battle with Lotus Development Corp. and its API in the first half of the '90s, was expected to reign as the predominant API for E-mail and groupware development. The unprecedented advance of Internet protocols over the past 18 months, however, has many customers convinced that Internet E-mail APIs such as POP3 and Internet Messaging Access Protocol 4 have already assumed their position as the crowned heirs to MAPI.

The inclusion of Internet protocols will make Exchange 5.0 more competitive with groupware leader Lotus Development Corp.'s Web-based Notes server, Domino, which made its debut last December. However, Exchange 5.0 is not a native HTTP Web server, as Domino. Microsoft's groupware platform requires the use of an external HTTP server such as Microsoft's Internet Information Server, others note.

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