I just read a very interesting interview of Bill Gates and Ray Ozzie about email management. There are three parts that I found particularly enlightening:

Basically every e-mail that I’ve ever sent has been looked at by something like 30 or 40 lawyers to see if there’s any way it can be misconstrued.

There are three kinds of meetings at Microsoft: where it’s a free-for-all and you can do whatever you want; where the people at the table have to pay attention but the others don’t (if you sit in a chair in back, that’s a signal that you’re going to just sort of be paying half attention); and meetings where we want total attention. The default really is: If you’re sitting at the table, you’re supposed to focus on what’s going on.

and in particular:

But e-mail right now gets used for things where it’s not perfect. If you have attachments going back and forth with lots of different versions of a document, that’s crazy.

It’s interesting to see how full circle we’ve come with attachments. When email started getting reasonably popular in the early 90’s, several standards competed to address the need to exchange binary files. The first attempts were quite awkward (uuencode) and became more sophisticated with time (better binary encoding and MIME types).

Attachments work very well with email now, regardless of your email client, but it’s reaching a point where, as Bill Gates puts it, it’s sometime being misused. Email is fine when you are exchanging read-only documents, but clearly not optimal when the various recipients are expected to make modifications to the document and resend it to the entire list. Time will tell if Microsoft’s solution will find its way on our desks, but there is clearly a big market for this kind of functionality, that even a successful product such as Lotus Notes hasn’t filled to far.
At any rate, read the interview, it’s well worth it.