Exchange Labs becomes Outlook Live and gets some cool new upgrades

Exchange Labs is undergoing an exciting transformation as we upgrade to the latest service release of the offering; R3.  As part of this upgrade, we are also be taking the opportunity to announce our final release branding of the service; it will now be known as Microsoft Outlook Live®.  The URL that end users will use to access the service will also change to http://outlook.com/, however http://exchangelabs.com will continue to work until further notice to assist with transitions.

I wanted to take this opportunity to bring readers up to speed on some of the things you should be aware of to assist your planning and support.  If you have any queries, don’t forget that you have some great resources available to you: your Microsoft account team, our recently refreshed Live@edu support services and our new wealth of online help.   I of course have been awaiting this moment, as I will have a load of podcasts to do now :).

The Exchange team have even released a bit of a Bob Dylan inspired video on this… worth a watch.

For your convenience, I thought it would be a good idea to lay out some of the more significant changes you will see here.  The upgrade of the service to what we are calling Release 3 (R3) will commence on Feb 13th 2009, and will continue until the end of May 2009 at the latest.  During this time period, a rising number of your existing end users will see the Exchange UI and some features change to reflect our new branding, new users will go straight onto the new release. As an IT Admin, you will also witness the introduction of some new tools and deployment options.

This is not an exhaustive list, please refer to our new online help website for full details.

New End-User features and functionality:

1. Support for Safari and Firefox browsers – Users enjoy the great functionality they get in Outlook Live with Internet Explorer but sometimes want the flexibility to use other web browsers.  Outlook Live Premium support will be available for IE 7+ as well as Firefox 3+ and Safari 3+ (MAC only).

2. Instant Messaging and Presence – Outlook Live now contains instant messaging integrated into the client, connected to the Live Messenger Service (hosted).  Using the colorful status indicator of another person, users can quickly decide if they should send an e-mail or just fire off a quick IM to get a fast response.

3. Conversation View – Allows users to group conversation so that they can view messages in context and narrow the number of messages in their inbox that they must pay attention to.

4. Live Header – Addition of the Microsoft Live header bar across the top of the Outlook Live web experience.

5. New online help – A wealth of information related to the end user features and functionality

New Administrator features and functionality:

1. New Exchange Control Panel functionality – Administrators will get extended management capabilities and be able to manage contacts, and eventually a lot more.

2. New Identity Lifecycle Manager Management Agent – Provides identity synchronization, certificate and password management, and user provisioning in a single solution that works across Microsoft Windows and other organization systems.  The new ELMA will be available in pilot to customers soon.

3. Hide users from the Global Address List – Service plans that provide a level of privacy for end-users who wish to remain hidden, see http://help.outlook.com/en-us/140/dd229067.aspx

4. PowerShell v2.0 CTP3 is required – In the current beta release of Outlook Live R2, administrators can use Windows PowerShell v2 and connect to an Exchange server remotely to perform some management tasks in their organization.  This requires downloading and installing Windows PowerShell v2 CTP2 and the WinRM 2.0 CTP2, from the connect site.  Instructions here.  With the release of Outlook Live R3, administrators will need to download and install the updated Windows PowerShell v2 CTP3 and WinRM 2.0 CTP3, by March 16Instructions here.  This new version has some changes to the syntax used, so review the technical documentation for instructions.  The new version can only be used after the domain has started to be upgraded.  Administrators can see if they are on R3 by logging into Outlook Live with the first/primary admin account and seeing the Outlook Live branding, instead of Exchange Labs

5. New Branding – After the upgrade, the way that branding in R3 is implemented will change.  Customers that have implemented R2 branding can leave their look and feel intact if they like.  From Feb 26th, R3 branding options will become available. 

Enjoy!

Jonny

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