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Microsoft Offers 2003 Product Preview

Microsoft issued a roadmap on its Web site this week of the software and technologies it plans to deliver for the enterprise in 2003.

The roadmap offered no surprises; Microsoft is preparing a broad range of mostly incremental offerings.

The roadmap's most important elements are a group of April releases: Windows .NET Server 2003, Visual Studio .NET 2003 and SQL Server 2000 Enterprise Edition (64-bit). Microsoft promises one first quarter delivery -- MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises. The rest of the products come in mid-2003 or later: Office 11, Exchange Server Titanium, SharePoint Team Services, XDocs, Greenwich, Jupiter and .NET Speech technologies.

Windows .NET Server 2003 will form a foundation for most of the other products shipping next year. The core of the server operating system is largely unchanged from Windows 2000. But other Microsoft products will build on Windows .NET Server 2003's embedded .NET Framework, its 64-bit Enterprise and Datacenter editions, and its eight-node failover clustering capabilities.

Visual Studio .NET 2003 also represents a relatively minor revision from the version that shipped in early 2002. New features include support for Web Services Enhancements 1.0 for Microsoft .NET, enhanced standards conformance in Visual C++ .NET and full support for the .NET Compact Framework.

The 64-bit SQL Server Enterprise Edition gives Microsoft a needed product to ship with 64-bit Windows and Itanium 2 until the blockbuster Yukon version of SQL Server comes out, probably in 2004.

Microsoft Office 11 stands out as one of the few major overhauls in the 2003 lineup. With a new interface for Outlook and broad support for XML, the suite is one to watch closely this year. Office 11 will integrate closely with Exchange Server Titanium, which offers low-level improvements that Microsoft says will reduce the total cost of ownership of Exchange. Microsoft will also broaden the Office family in 2003 with the introduction of the XDocs application for creating and exchanging XML data.

Microsoft will attempt to develop its instant messaging client and server software through two launches in 2003. The first will be a first quarter release of MSN Messenger Connect for Enterprises, a service providing management tools, archiving and namespace control. Later in the year, Microsoft will ship a Greenwich server that will provide enterprises with the infrastructure to run their own instant messaging environments.

Late in 2003, Microsoft expects to ship a first version of Jupiter, a new product that encompasses the capabilities of three existing Enterprise servers -- BizTalk, Commerce Server and Content Management Server. Previously, Microsoft has characterized Jupiter as a stepped release, with a version featuring mostly BizTalk functionality coming out in late 2003, and a version that includes the functionality of all three source products shipping in 2004.

Finally, Microsoft plans enhancements of SharePoint Team Services, Web services in general and speech technologies in 2003. The speech technologies should come in the form of a beta release of a .NET Speech platform and a gold code version of the .NET Speech Software Development Kit.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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