The future of e-mail on Microsoft servers takes a leap forward today when the first beta of Microsoft's latest Exchange server will be released. Version 12 of the Exchange server software will be available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, although a full migration to 64-bit is in progress. The beta in question is a private beta only, released to 1,400 customers and partners worldwide. It is not inclusive of all of the new features that will comprise the final release, but it’s pretty close. There are three major goals to this new Exchange server: to give sysadmins more control; allow users to have more access to their inbox, and; provide increased security for Exchange servers.

Exchange 12 will have unified messaging, previously only available through third-party products, and users can also have calendar appointments read to them through the service.

Security enhancements include a new third-party anti-virus API, plus a new attachment-filtering feature that can prohibit certain types of attachments from leaving or entering the network.

Beta 2 of Exchange 12 is expected sometime in mid-2006. The final version is expected in early-to-mid 2007.