To get the voice mail integration and other new features in Exchange Server 2007, businesses will have to pay a higher fee for each PC that connects to the server--a charge known as a client access license, or CAL. For those that want the core calendar and e-mail software features, without some of the new bells and whistles, Microsoft will have a standard CAL, priced the same as for the current Exchange 2003 software.
Microsoft did not say how much customers will pay for the Enterprise CAL, which covers the new features. However, the software maker did say it will be less than if companies purchased such tools separately.
The move is part of a growing trend at Microsoft to add high-end ranges to its product lines. On the desktop side, the company has announced plans for "Ultimate" editions of Windows Vista and Office 2007. At the same time, its Windows Server operating system is moving into the supercomputer arena.
One of the big pushes with the new Exchange is a focus on giving businesses better abilities to protect and track messages, as well as set rules such as who within a company can talk to one another. These capabilities are important for regulated industries such as health care and financial services.
Another focus is on allowing businesses to more easily and cost-effectively store and back up messages, with improved replication features.
"These things let you run very large mailboxes," said Dave Thompson, the corporate vice president who runs Microsoft's Exchange business. Thompson noted that internally, Microsoft is increasing its mailbox size limit for workers, moving from 200MB to a larger 2GB allotment.
The software maker released the first beta of the product, then code-named Exchange 12, in December. A second beta is planned for this summer, with the company aiming to wrap up development work by the end of this year. The official goal is the end of 2006 or early 2007, though Chairman Bill Gates said at a hardware conference last month that Exchange 2007 would be finished this year.
The software is noteworthy for another reason: It's one of the first Microsoft products to be released in a 64-bit version only, as opposed to working with both 32-bit servers and 64-bit servers.
Thompson said that Microsoft has been seeing good growth in sales of the current Exchange 2003 product. The company said it has exceeded its goal of halving the number of users running Exchange 5.5 and that Exchange now has 48 percent of the market, according to Gartner.
"We still have some customers on 5.5, but the last ones are moving," Thompson said.