Feedback from the Road

Travel supposedly broadens the mind, and it's certainly true in my case. I recently traveled to several countries as part of the Get Ready for Exchange and Outlook 2007 Roadshow cosponsored by Windows IT Pro and Microsoft. I visited Portugal, Norway, and South Africa (threSmart Personal Object Technologye places I'd never been before), plus a variety of airports (my favorite: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, which has a nifty in-airport art museum). I've met and talked with a lot of people about Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and 2007 Microsoft Office, and I was struck by their opinions and reactions to the new products.

First, I found a huge interest in the new Exchange Management Console and its accompanying scripting environment, the Exchange Management Shell. Many of the people I spoke with were excited about the potential uses of the command-line environment, but a few folks expressed worry that Exchange 2007 would require people to use the command line, which is partially true. Microsoft's stated goal is for the command line to allow every operation you can perform in Exchange Management Console, and some less-common tasks that aren't in the GUI can be performed only through the command line. One feature new to Beta 2 that grabbed a lot of interest was Exchange Management Console's ability to show the exact Exchange Management Shell command necessary to complete a given task: People like to see how the command is constructed according to the options they choose in the GUI.

Second, I was glad to see that Microsoft's message about public folders is getting out to the world. They aren't dead; rather, Microsoft has publicly committed to supporting public folders at least until the end-of-life for Exchange 2007—10 years after it ships. That means that you have until around 2016 before you have to worry about whether Microsoft will eliminate public folders. You can build a public-folder-free environment with Exchange 2007 and Outlook 2007, and given that many organizations use public folders only for free/busy data and offline address books, I think such environments will probably be of great interest. There are still some questions about how we'll be able to migrate Exchange public folder data to SharePoint; I'll write about that next week.

Third, Microsoft needs to do a better job of explaining exactly what users need to deploy Exchange Unified Messaging (UM). There's intense interest in this feature, but most people are confused about whether their existing PBX systems will work with Exchange UM and, if not, what kinds of equipment they should plan on buying. As more Microsoft partners get up to speed on Exchange 2007, I expect this problem to solve itself, but I'd love to see some recommended hardware for a "UM starter kit" that could be used for pilot, test, and branch-office installations.

Fourth, the reaction to the new scheduling and calendaring features has been uniformly enthusiastic. If Microsoft can continue clearly communicating how the Calendar Concierge features make life better for both end users and server administrators, the company will find a ready audience among people who are frustrated by the challenges of scheduling meetings.

Finally, my travels taught me not to count on Verizon's "world phone" service to work outside North America unless I'm using a Verizon-branded phone. I wasn't, and thus was reduced to using Skype and phone cards to call the United States from South Africa. Verizon's network coverage in the United States has been excellent for me, and its high-speed Evolution-Data Optimized (EV-DO)data service is super valuable on road trips, but I'm going to have to deploy a second phone for overseas travel. I welcome your comments and experiences with T-Mobile and Cingular (or maybe I'll just keep buying prepaid Global System for Mobile Communication—GSM—Subscriber Identity Module—SIM—cards in the countries I visit).

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