Microsoft Exchange 14, the next version of the e-mail server software, will add support for Google's Gmail-like conversation view.
It will also add support for the Firefox and Safari web browsers, and contain integrated instant messaging.
The features will all be part of Exchange's revamped corporate Webmail service, Outlook Web Access , or OWA, according to a blog and video posted by Microsoft's Exchange development team . OWA will be renamed Outlook Live in Exchange 14.
Microsoft has not set a release date yet, but said last month it had been beta testing Outlook Live for more than a year with 3.5 million students and at 1,500 schools.
Outlook Live is the web-based counterpart to Microsoft's Outlook desktop e-mail client software. It is meant for users when they are on-the-go or logging in from a smartphone. It is different from Windows Live Hotmail, Microsoft's consumer Webmail service.
OWA has been criticised by users for lacking the features of both Outlook and Gmail.
Besides adding full support for Firefox and Safari (in addition to its own Internet Explorer), Outlook Live will add an optional 'conversation view' similar to Gmail's. E-mails will be grouped by senders and recipients, and can be hidden underneath the most recent one for a cleaner look.
Microsoft has not said whether e-mail threading will be available in the next version of the Outlook client. That feature is already available from a third-party software maker, ClearContext.
Outlook Live will also let users see the 'presence' of people such as co-workers on their contact lists, when those users are managed on the same Exchange 14 server. Users can then send IMs to people on the same network.
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