Editor’s Note: Death, taxes and upgrades

You can expect major upgrades to most of the major Microsoft solution platforms this year, including Office, SharePoint, Exchange and Lync.

Lafe Low

Conventional wisdom suggests only two things are truly inevitable: death and taxes. We know there is also a third: upgrades. Are you using the exact same OS as you were five years ago? How about the same version of your applications? Yeah, didn’t think so.

With upgrades come increased functions and capabilities, but often also a slight learning curve. There will be new features. There will be old features presented in new ways. There might be compatibility issues, although these are much less significant than they once were.

This will be a big year for upgrades from Microsoft. On the heels of releasing Windows 8 last year, Microsoft is scheduled to release upgrades for many of its major platforms, including Office, SharePoint and Exchange. Here’s a look at what’s coming.

Office 2013: The first thing you’ll notice in Office 2013 is the enhanced interface, including the use of Start screens to launch apps and documents. You can also sync across multiple devices such as a laptop or a tablet computer, and use Office apps with a touchscreen interface. Other enhancements include improved charting and graphics features; co-authoring support with Visio Professional 2013, Word Web App and PowerPoint Web App; new Group Policy and Office Customization Tool settings; and enhanced security and authentication features.

SharePoint 2013: SharePoint now provides sophisticated branding for external- or internal-facing sites, Business Data Connectivity services to access outside data with SharePoint or Office clients, business intelligence tools, enhanced claims-based authentication, and optimized site viewing features for mobile devices.

Exchange Server 2013: Exchange Server 2013 offers greater integration with SharePoint 2013 and Lync Server 2013 through site mailboxes and In-Place eDiscovery. The Outlook Web App now has a streamlined interface that supports touchscreens, and Smart Search features that analyze previous behaviors to prioritize Exchange search results. You can also merge contacts into a single view, and use new search and indexing tools to search across Exchange Server 2013, Lync Server 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Windows file servers.

Lync Server 2013: Lync is tightly integrated with Exchange Server (see Alan Maddison’s piece last month, “Lync Server 2013 and Exchange Server 2013: Powerful communicator”). There are also enhanced audio and video conferencing features, Enterprise Voice capabilities, instant messaging and presence features, and enhanced mobility features. Improved archiving lets you store peer-to-peer instant messages, multiparty instant messages and conference content in myriad formats and from different sources.

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Lafe Low

Lafe Low is the editor in chief of TechNet Magazine*. A veteran technology journalist, he’s also the former executive editor of 1105 Media’s* Redmond magazine.