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Next Exchange features e-mail 'mute' button

Microsoft has started beta testing of Exchange 2010, which includes conversation threading as well as the ability to ignore a particular discussion.

Exchange 2010's conversation threading feature, as seen in a screenshot of Outlook Web Access. Microsoft

The next version of Microsoft's corporate e-mail server will not only offer the ability to view e-mail by conversations, but also the option of "muting" any thread that a user would rather not take part in.

Conversation threading, a popular feature from Google's Gmail, and the mute option are several of the new features in Exchange 2010, the next version of the company's e-mail and calendar server. The software is entering public beta on Wednesday, with a final launch slated for the second half of this year.

Among the other features of the product, which has been code-named Exchange 14, is something Microsoft has dubbed "MailTips," which offers warnings when one might be about to commit an e-mail faux pas.

"MailTips is kind of like a guardian angel before you send the mail," Microsoft's Rajesh Jha said in an interview this week. For example, it will warn a user if they are about to send an e-mail to a large distribution list or if they are going to send an attachment outside their company's firewall.

Microsoft is also building in new archiving features into Exchange 2010, features that will allow companies to store a user's e-mail archive as well as make archived messages available to users when they are not at their desktop or laptop PC.

Many of Exchange 14's features work in the Web-based Outlook Web Access program, but to use them on the desktop will require Office 2010, which isn't due out until the first half of next year, Microsoft said.

"Exchange is leading the way," Jha said.

Microsoft is already using Exchange 2010 to power its Live@edu service for schools and universities. Customers of Exchange Online, Microsoft's hosted service for businesses, will have the option of moving to the new Exchange after the server software is released, Jha said.

For a bit more on Exchange 2010, here's a video I shot with Jha during an interview at his office earlier this year.