The wait is over: Microsoft has released Exchange Server 2003 to manufacturing, and an evaluation copy is ready for download. A product's release to manufacturing (RTM) isn't the same as a release to retail--RTM is the date on which the product-team members take their hands off the product (for a while, anyway) so that it can be prepared for shipping out to the world. As of 12:00 P.M. Pacific Standard Time on Monday, June 30, Microsoft posted an evaluation version for download at the first URL below. This 120-day evaluation version has full functionality; you can upgrade to the full version upon its release by reinstalling it on top of the evaluation version. When will that full version be ready? You probably already know that Microsoft has a variety of licensing plans for Exchange 2003. (I'm not smart enough to understand them all, much less explain them to anyone else, so you'll need to contact your local Microsoft office for a full explanation.) Open License and Select License customers will be the first to get their hands on the full version, with a target ship date of August 1.
What about the retail boxed version? This version takes longer to produce because boxes, manuals, nifty-looking silk-screened CD-ROMs, and a variety of other in-the-box stuff must be manufactured, assembled, and shipped to retailers. Compounding this delay is the fact that retail Exchange Server CD-ROMs include Outlook, and Outlook 2003 isn't quite ready to go out the door. Accordingly, the retail version of Exchange 2003 (with the English version of Outlook 2003) will probably ship in early September. Retail kits with Outlook 2003 in other language versions will ship as those versions are completed.
One really cool thing that Microsoft is offering alongside the Exchange 2003 release is a trial program for the updated Outlook Web Access (OWA). By visiting the second URL below, you can sign up for a 7-day OWA trial that gives you a fully functional OWA mailbox. This trial is a great opportunity to preview the appearance and functionality of the new OWA. If your migration is stuck because someone can't quite decide whether moving to Exchange 2003 is worthwhile, try showing him or her OWA's new junk-email filtering features. Although a test account probably won't receive much spam and therefore won't let these features truly show their stuff, I bet the new OWA will still make a good impression.
Of course, the Exchange 2003 RTM doesn't spell the end of the line for Exchange 2000 Server; many Exchange sites will wait to migrate until they hear more field reports about Exchange 2003. In the meantime, Microsoft has scheduled several Webcasts about Exchange 2003 features and functionality; visit the third URL below for details.
Exchange 2003 Trial Software
Exchange Server 2003 Outlook Web Access Trial Account
Upcoming Microsoft Webcasts