Microsoft is to add new protection features to the next version of its Exchange messaging server, according to the head of Microsoft's Exchange division.

Exchange Server 2007 will be in final beta release before September and should be released to manufacturing in late 2006 or early 2007. It will include enhancements to give users broader access to their e-mail anywhere from multiple devices, as well as provide better operational efficiency for network managers, said Dave Thompson, corporate vice president of Exchange at Microsoft.

New built-in features in Exchange Server 2007 include the ability for customers to purchase either on-premise anti-virus software or a hosted version. As part of a new enterprise Client Access License (CAL) for the product, customers can purchase Microsoft's Antigen for Exchange antivirus software or Exchange Hosted Filtering services bundled with the Exchange CAL. Antigen and Exchange Hosted Filtering both came in acquisitions Microsoft made last year - the former from Sybari Software, the second from FrontBridge Technologies. Microsoft's server products include both per-server enterprise licensing and CALs, which are required for corporate users.

Another area that is of particular focus in Exchange Server 2007 is compliance. Microsoft will provide the ability to set e-mail folder policies in Exchange to support compliance across the organisation. For example, server administrators can set up policies to prevent employees from different groups in the company - brokers and financial analysts, for example - from exchanging email with one another, he said. Administrators also can set up policies that automatically archive email messages pertaining to certain topics, or automatically delete other emails.

The new software also will allow users to send encrypted mail between servers running the product. Previously, extra set-up had to be done for this to happen. "Any pair of servers, no matter how they are connected, if they are Exchange Server 2007 they can automatically encrypt traffic between them," Thompson said.

Exchange Server 2007 also will include a host of unified messaging features, such as the ability to play voice-mail messages direct from an email through an embedded version of Windows Media Player. Users also can retrieve e-mail messages by calling into Exchange Server on a phone and have their e-mail messages read to them by an interactive voice response (IVR) system, Thompson said.

Exchange users also can access information from their calendar through the IVR system, and have Exchange automatically send a message to meeting attendees if he expects to be late to a meeting.

Analyst firms including Gartner and IDC put Exchange ahead of IBM's Lotus Notes in both market share and growth rates. According to Gartner's 2004 numbers, Exchange revenue growth outpaced Lotus/Domino revenue growth 15.7 percent to 5.4 percent.