Microsoft is set to upset some Exchange users by delaying the release of its promised anti-spam and anti-virus improvements to the Exchange e-mail server. But the company is set to release a beta version of the anti-spyware technology it purchased last month.

The company last month axed its proposed Exchange add-on Edge Services, saying it will be rolled into the next version of the Exchange Server product. Microsoft has not yet set a release date for that version, but insiders expect a new Exchange Server in late 2006. With many customers still in the process of upgrading their Exchange e-mail servers to Exchange Server 2003, released in 2003, the change in timing for Edge Services will have little impact on customers, according to Microsoft.

However, one analyst said some customers who bought upgrade rights on Exchange may be upset by Microsoft's move.

"The new (Exchange) road map means there will be no major upgrades for customers who bought upgrade rights on Exchange in late 2001 and early 2002," Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft, wrote in a research note. He added that those customers, many of whom signed three-year agreements, would need to sign a new agreement or buy new licenses when the next version of Exchange ships.

Exchange Edge Services is an intelligent message transfer agent for the edge of a company's network that offers security, spam and virus protection. Microsoft in October back-pedalled on its commitment to deliver Edge Services in 2005, followed by cancellation of the addition in December.

Microsoft plans to release some elements of Edge Services with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, due in the second half of 2005. However, it needs more time to build a product that meets customer requests for broader capabilities such as support for messaging policies to help meet regulatory compliance requirements, the company said.

The company is on target, however, to release a public beta of anti-spyware software by 16 January, one month after it acquired the software by purchasing Giant Company Software, a company spokeswoman said. She declined to comment on an exact release date, or the functionality that will be in the release program.

Microsoft would not comment on information published on Microsoft enthusiast website Neowin that a beta version of the software, code named "Atlanta," has already been distributed to internal testers. Neowin also posted screenshots supposedly taken from a product called "Microsoft AntiSpyware."

Microsoft commonly tests products internally first, a process it calls "dogfooding," but the company spokesman would not say whether the AntiSpyware software had been distributed to employees.

At the time of the Giant purchase, Microsoft said that the beta would run on Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 systems and that it would use that public beta release to collect and evaluate customer feedback on the product, and make decisions about how it wants to distribute the AntiSpyware product in the future.