Live from Vegas . . . It's Exchange Connections!

This week I've been at the Microsoft Exchange Connections show in Las Vegas. The weather is warm, the sessions are crowded, and there are a few hot topics that I want to share with you.

First, Exchange administrators are showing a ton of interest in SharePoint. This isn't a surprise, given that Microsoft has for a while now been pitching the benefits of having a unified collaboration and communications platform that includes Exchange, SharePoint, and Microsoft Office Live Communications Server. However, interest in SharePoint is clearly building, as evidenced by the attendance at SharePoint-themed sessions and the number of people stopping at SharePoint-related booths on the show floor. This surge in interest is driven partly by administrator concern about migrating public-folder content from Exchange to SharePoint, but it's also an indication that SharePoint is gaining traction as a collaboration environment.

On the Exchange front, the first day of the show was all Microsoft, and the Exchange Server 2007–focused sessions presented by Microsoft speakers generated a good bit of buzz. Microsoft is following a classic incremental strategy of releasing more and more detail the closer we get to release to manufacturing (RTM). Given that RTM is expected within the next month or so, Microsoft has been loosening the restrictions on what company representatives can publicly talk about.

One interesting thing I noticed on the show floor is that relatively few vendors are talking publicly about their Exchange 2007 plans. When queried directly, most exhibitors admitted that their companies are working on Exchange 2007 compatibility, but in general they don't seem to be in a big hurry. The releases of Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2000 helped separate nimble companies that were willing to quickly embrace the new releases—and thus gain a market advantage—from slower-moving companies that lost ground by waiting, and this pattern seems to be replaying itself with Exchange 2007.

Another thing I found interesting was the widespread emphasis on mobility. Research in Motion (RIM) had a BlackBerry-themed booth at the show. Clearly, RIM now sees the combination of Windows Mobile and Exchange ActiveSync as a real threat to the company's market; the sync, management, and security improvements in Exchange 2007 and the next release of Windows Mobile are clearly having the effect Microsoft intends. I had a few minutes to play with some new Windows Mobile devices, including the T-Mobile Dash and the Samsung SGH-i320. The proliferation of cool Windows Mobile devices will put increasing pressure on RIM to continue releasing products such as the new BlackBerry Pearl to stay competitive.

For this show, the Windows Connections, Exchange Connections, and SharePoint Connections conferences were colocated with a parallel set of developer-oriented conferences on Microsoft Office and ASP.NET. To no one's surprise, there wasn't a lot of cross-pollination between developers and administrators. That's too bad, because the advent of Web services as a ubiquitous way to access information in Exchange and SharePoint stores offers rich potential for building customized applications. I hope to see more combined discussion at future shows.

We're still accepting session proposals for the spring 2007 Exchange Connections show, which will be held April 1–4 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando, Florida. If you're interested in speaking or would like to see particular sessions presented, drop me a note at [email protected] (Note that this address is different from my regular email address.)

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