The analysts over at Ferris Research are buzzing about the latest shifting sands in the Microsoft Exchange world.
First, Richi Jennings asserted that

The Lotus community's scorn over the Exchange roadmap isn't entirely justified, but it seems to be getting louder by the day.
(Good response comment from Phillip Storry there BTW).
Then, David Via chimed in:
I don't believe for a second that there is no Exchange roadmap in Redmond, it's simply that they have not gone public with it.  I think there is a very sound reason for that - they don't want customers on older releases who still have not upgraded to Exchange 2003 to start thinking "Well, maybe I should wait until the next release.."
I can't say that I blame them...
This puzzles me.  Having been part of the decision-making process of when/how to describe R5, Notes/Domino 6, 6.5, and now 7, 7.5, 8 (and beyond) in public, I can't see that Microsoft's public silence here is a good thing.  Microsoft seems to be really good at the idea of staying focused on their current, shipping release.  They do this fairly relentlessly across the Office/Information Worker products.  I wonder if it is because percentagewise, they have fewer customers on Software Assurance than other software vendors have on maintenance programs.  They have to more actively convince customers to upgrade as a result.  Still, Software Assurance has been a major thrust for three years now; one would think that the only way to justify that customers who bought into it would renew is to show them that their investments will be worthwhile.  Service packs aren't going to cut it, I would think.  And what customer wants to go through an upgrade to the current shipping version of a product (i.e. Exchange) if it is going to be a dead-end?

Now, today, Microsoft has officially acknowleged that Exchange Edge Services won't ship in 2005 as a product.  I heard from a source that they had their PR agency communicate the change; guess they didn't want to take the flack directly.  Ferris's Chris Williams has blogged about this formal announcement in "spitballs and bandaids":
Today Microsoft announced their new plans and timing for Exchange Edge Server.  Exchange Edge Server has now morphed into a new "role" for Exchange Server that administrators can deploy, similar to other Exchange roles (front-end server, back end-server, routing server, etc.).  This new "Edge role" will ship with the next version of Exchange, sometime late in 2006.  However, many of the features that were previously announced for Edge will ship in 2005 as downloads or service packs, and Exchange 2003 customers can deploy them as they choose....
Microsoft will deliver some additional incremental updates in hotfixes and service packs in 2005, but these are just spitballs and band-aids in the larger daily battle that administrators face.
Yes, it is a wonder that anyone would buy into this product group's future pronouncements when Exchange 2003 SP2 is all that will come in 2005...perhaps they are learning from the Windows team how to package a service pack as an actual release.

The bottom line on all this --
In October, 2001, Paul Flessner announced that the Exchange server would be rebased atop SQL (as "Kodiak") in the "2003 beyond kind of timeframe".  When SQL Server "Yukon" started slipping, the first band-aid appeared in the form of Exchange 2003, internally known as Exchange 6.5 (which wasn't on the roadmap at all in 2001).  Then Kodiak was axed altogether, but it was Edge Services to the rescue.  Now that one has bit the dust in the form in which it was announced, and the second band-aid -- a service pack, pretty small band-aid -- has been applied.  The problem is, how is anyone looking to the future supposed to examine this track record and believe that Exchange is a strategic product for Microsoft?  To switch metaphors,all the collaboration capabilities have moved out of town anyway.  With nothing big on the horizon, I think Exchange is turning into a ghost town, and fast.  They can't even agree on when to announce a roadmap, much less what that roadmap is!  
There's a town near here called "Tombstone".... methinks I'll need to be updating the collaboration graveyard slide prior to Lotusphere 2005.

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