The Universal Inbox: One hub for all

Imagine checking your e-mail by phone, or sorting your voice mail messages in your e-mail client. With Exchange Server 2007 and the upcoming release of Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007, Microsoft is laying the foundation for what the company's federal solutions architect Josh Rite calls the Universal Inbox, a central hub for all your electronic communications. The centralized hub approach lets users easily slip from one form of communications, say e-mail, to another, such as messaging.

A user may get an e-mail from a colleague within the office, or even from another Microsoft network. Microsoft Exchange can let that person know when the second person is online and offers the option of responding to that person by Instant Messenger or by phone, as well as by e-mail.

If the two start up a network chat, the Microsoft servers will carry the subject line of the e-mail over to that session, so users can keep tabs on the different conversations, even as they cross the boundaries from e-mail.

The unified communications approach also lets users listen to, annotate and even store voice mails with the Outlook clients.

Likewise, you can use your phone to call into the office and have your e-mail and calendar entries read to you. Microsoft also is working on a set of advanced functions, such as the ability to tell the server that you will be a few minutes late for an upcoming meeting. If that meeting is on the Exchange calendar, and other participants have that meeting on their Outlook calendars as well, the software can automatically alert the others of your tardiness.

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