director of research, Directions on Microsoft Inc.

Microsoft Corp. is getting ready to release a beta version of antispyware technology it purchased last month to the public, but will delay promised antispam and antivirus improvements to the Exchange e-mail server, according to information provided by the company.

Microsoft is on target to release a public beta of antispyware software by Jan. 16, one month after the company acquired the software by purchasing Giant Company Software Inc., a company spokeswoman said. Simultaneously, Microsoft is delaying elements of Exchange Edge Services, a package of e-mail security technologies, until the next major release of Exchange Server, according to a statement sent to reporters in December.

Microsoft plans to release a free evaluation version of Giant AntiSpyware software within a month of its Dec. 16 purchase of Giant, but a spokeswoman declined to comment on an exact release date, or the functionality that will be in the release program.

Microsoft would not comment on information published on Microsoft enthusiast Web site that a beta version of the software, code named “Atlanta,” has already been distributed to internal testers. also posted screenshots supposedly taken from a product called “Microsoft AntiSpyware.”

Microsoft commonly tests products internally first, a process it calls “dogfooding,” but the company spokesman would not say whether the AntiSpyware software had been distributed to employees.

At the time of the Giant purchase, Microsoft said that the beta would run on Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 systems and that it would use that public beta release to collect and evaluate customer feedback on the product, and make decisions about how it wants to distribute the AntiSpyware product in the future.

The future is more cloudy for Exchange Edge Services, an add-on for Exchange Server announced by chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates in February 2004 at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.

The company last month axed Edge Services, saying it will not be released this year as an addition to Exchange, but will instead be rolled into the next version of the Exchange Server product. Microsoft has not yet set a release date for that version, but insiders expect a new Exchange Server in late 2006.

With many customers still in the process of upgrading their Exchange e-mail servers to Exchange Server 2003, released in 2003, the change in timing for Edge Services will have little impact on customers, according to Microsoft. The new (Exchange) road map means there will be no major upgrades for customers who bought upgrade rights on Exchange in late 2001 and early 2002.Rob Helm>Text

However, one analyst said some customers who bought upgrade rights on Exchange may be upset by Microsoft’s move.

“The new (Exchange) road map means there will be no major upgrades for customers who bought upgrade rights on Exchange in late 2001 and early 2002,” Rob Helm, director of research at Directions on Microsoft Inc., wrote in a research note. Those customers, many of whom signed three-year agreements, will need to sign a new agreement or buy new licenses when the next version of Exchange ships, he wrote.

Exchange Edge Services is an intelligent message transfer agent for the edge of a company’s network that offers security, spam and virus protection. Microsoft in October back-pedaled on its commitment to deliver Edge Services in 2005, followed by cancellation of the addition in December.

Microsoft plans to release some elements of Edge Services with Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2, due in the second half of 2005. However, it needs more time to build a product that meets customer requests for broader capabilities such as support for messaging policies to help meet regulatory compliance requirements, the company said.