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Microsoft to ship Outlook 98

The software giant plans to ship in late March the final version of its Outlook messaging and collaboration client.

Microsoft (MSFT) today said it plans to ship in late March the final version of its Outlook messaging and collaboration client for its messaging server Exchange and desktop suite Office.

With Outlook 98, the company said it tried to meet the needs of a broad range of Internet users, as well as its traditional user-base--those using Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Office, and Internet Explorer 4.0.

The new package adds support for a whole slew of Internet standards, like IMAP4, LDAP, and S/MIME. It also includes support for Internet calendaring standards, like iCal and vCal, which allow users to share schedule information over the Web. Support for vCard, an emerging standard for electronic business cards, is also part of the new package.

The company last year admitted that customer dissatisfaction with the performance and consistency of Outlook 97 were considered when the next version was developed. Thus, the company paid close attention to ease of use features and brought in more Internet standards.

In addition to providing a consistent interface, Microsoft has added synchronization features, search tools, and organizational tools in the new version.

Microsoft connected Outlook more closely to the back-end, or server, to speed up its product, the company said. Background synchronization of public folders and field-level replication will also be added in the new version.

Microsoft has designed Outlook 98 to integrate with Office 97, Exchange Server, and IE 4.0. Users can start Outlook 98 from IE 4.0 to send and receive email and create contact lists. The new client also shares HTML rendering and the News Reader from IE 4.0, according to the company.