Microsoft has provided details of a new mail client that is expected to become the de facto Exchange client for Windows 95.
The Microsoft Outlook desktop information manager -- first discussed two-and-a-half weeks ago during Microsoft's daylong intranet briefing -- incorporates electronic mail, calendaring and scheduling, contact management and file management.
The software will be included in the Office 97 application suite, sold as a stand-alone product by year-end and eventually bundled with Exchange, according to company officials.
Outlook will provide a central interface in which Microsoft Office users may perform daily tasks and share information easily between the word processing, spreadsheet and graphics applications that comprise the suite.
Outlook is also designed to address some of the limitations of the Exchange in-box that currently ships with Windows 95. Specifically, Outlook's calendaring features replace Schedule+, a separate package that does not work with Exchange.
"I'm itching to get my hands on Outlook," says Greg Scott, IS manager for the College of Business at Oregon State University in Corvallis, which is running the Windows 95 in-box as an Exchange client. In addition to featuring integrated mail and scheduling, he says Outlook will make Exchange easier to use by exposing its capabilities, such as the ability to apply a calendar view to data in the messaging server.
"One of the problems we have with Exchange now is that users don't always understand how to tap the potential of the product," he says. "When features are more on the surface, users will exploit them."
Because Outlook runs only on Windows 95, Microsoft will continue to sell the Exchange client for users running DOS, Windows 3.1 or Macintosh clients, according to Greg Lobdell, group product manager at Microsoft.
Analysts are enthusiastic about Outlook and say it will boost the collaborative capabilities of Exchange, while giving Office users the tight integration expected in a suite.