Maybe it got lost in all the excitement around the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010, but another date worth noting will be in June when Microsoft launches a beta of its Exchange Server 2010 service pack, with general release expected by the end of the year.

While it’s not exactly an official announcement, details of the release have just been made public on the Microsoft Exchange Team blog. It indicated that the beta will include a roll-up of tweaks already made as well as enhanced archiving, discovery functions and improved mobile access.

The blog also says it will come with an improved UI for better managing Exchange tasks as well as an easier and better user experience for those who will be using Outlook Web Access.

Discovery-ing Exchange 2010 SP

The beta release is being made in conjunction with TechEd North America and will be offered to current customers to test drive before full release. So let’s have a quick look.

For email archiving the principal addition will be the introduction of tiered archiving that includes personal archiving whereby content for personal archiving will be stored in a separate mailbox to user's primary mailbox. Access to the new personal archives will also be possible through Exchange 2007.

This was introduced based on feedback to the integrated email functions that were introduced in Exchange Server’s beta last November -- which included enhanced email discovery.

On the server side, users will also be able to import historical content from .PST files as well as delegate access to personal archives. New retention policies will result in automatic tagging so that enterprise deleting and retention policies can also be automated.

Mailbox search has also been improved with an email preview that will help eDiscovery by providing search result keyword statistics that give users an idea of how many and what files need to be sent to discovery mailboxes and files.

Fast And Furious Outlook Web App

For the Outlook Web App, enhancements are aimed at speeding up the process of accessing and reading content with a new ‘pre-fetch’ feature that will open content instantaneously. Large file attachment has been improved to ensure an entire account doesn’t come to a halt while this is being done.

The other major improvement here is to the user interface, which has been simplified to make it more compatible with smaller screens with a lot of de-cluttering, making it easier to find commonly used tasks.

SP 1 also comes with Web-ready access and viewing of Information Rights Management-protected (IRM) documents, which can be viewed in Safari, Firefox or IE and on a Mac.

Mobile Exchange 2010 SP

While compatibility with a smaller screen helps mobile access, so do changes at the back-end. Mobile workers will be given full IRM support in Exchange Active Sync, the Exchange standard for mobile communication, which means IRM-protected mail can be accessed without have to enable IRM capabilities on mobile devices.

Enhanced capabilities also allow for “send as” features as well as notification if the device has been blocked.

And Then There’s Google Migration

There’s a lot of competition in the messaging and collaboration market at the moment and Microsoft (news, site) is hoping to steal some of the thunder with Exchange 2010 -- this service pack giving it an added edge.

However, there’s still Google Apps Migration for Exchange to contend with which makes moving  your Exchange data to Google Apps a walk in the park, if you are to believe Google.

While Google Apps Migration for Microsoft Exchange works with Microsoft Exchange 2003 and 2007, let’s see how long it takes them before they make it work with Exchange 2010. Not long after the Exchange 2010 general release is probably a good bet!