Microsoft is rolling out the PR for Office 2010 (formerly Office 14) and Exchange 2010:
We’re announcing that Microsoft will begin releasing new versions of Office-related products this year. Exchange 2010 will be the first product in this lineup, entering beta for customers to download today. Exchange 2010 will become available in the second half of 2009. Office 2010 — including Office Web applications, SharePoint Server 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 — will enter a technical preview in the third quarter of 2009 and will release to manufacturing in the first half of 2010.
So what goodies does Microsoft have for users of Exchange 2010 and Office 2010 (which reportedly will have both 32 and 64-bit versions)? Well, that’s a bit hard to discern amidst the flummery, but beyond the improved Outlook Web Access Webmail client, one other theme seems clear:
IT professionals will have more flexibility and choice to simplify deployment and lower management costs, while maintaining control. For example, Exchange 2010 and SharePoint Server 2010 give users the same value whether deployed on-premises, as a service from Microsoft and industry partners, or a mix of both.
As for the Exchange 2010 beta:
Exchange 2010 is part of the next wave of Microsoft Office-related products and is the first server in a new generation of Microsoft server technology built from the ground up to work on-premises and as an online service. This release of Exchange 2010 introduces a new integrated e-mail archive and features to help reduce costs and improve the user experience. A public beta of the server is available for download starting today at http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/2010.
There is a full laundry list of new Exchange 2010 features at the link, not a few of which are rather obscure.
Microsoft was on the sidelines today as Apple launched their iPhone 3G around the world and the associated iPhone 2.0 software update, but Microsoft’s Adam Glick reminded everyone where the iPhone will be calling for numerous business users:
If you’ve not heard; Apple released iPhone 2.0 today which includes a software update to the existing iPhones in the market (yes, we mentioned it when it was announced as well). We’re thrilled to add them to the family of Exchange ActiveSync licensees that enable all sorts of devices to connect to Exchange Server. For those of you that manage Exchange Servers this means you may see some new devices connecting and we wanted to give you a few notes about what to expect.
Follow the link for details, but it is no surprise as it was announced back in March and it is still good business for both parties.
Reuters’ Daisuke Wakabayashi snagged an interview with Chris Capossela (the Microsoft SVP in charge of Office) who delivers some startling prognostications about the future of Microsoft’s Exchange mail server:
"In five years, 50 percent of our Exchange mailboxes will be Exchange Online," said Capossela, who expects a portion of Exchange Online customers to come from customers switching from International Business Machines’ Lotus Domino system.
In case you aren’t familiar with it, Exchange Online is Microsoft’s not yet generally available offering of hosted Exchange to customers who would prefer to outsource the provisioning, maintenance, and operation of their Exchange servers. As I observed when the Microsoft Online Services nomenclature was announced, "this is just good old fashioned managed hosting," and Microsoft partners have been offering the equivalent of Exchange Online for years and are continuing to offer it despite Microsoft clearly having set their sights on the market. There’s probably room for some partners to survive alongside Microsoft, but not very much.
However, Microsoft’s venture into managed hosting carries with it the financial burden of all the players in the outsourcing game: high costs yielding stable high revenues but with low margins.
In a services business, the customer will pay Microsoft a larger fee, since Microsoft also runs and maintains all the hardware. But Microsoft’s profit margins may not be "as high," Capossela said, even though revenue may be more consistent.
The key for Microsoft will be to run its computers systems as efficiently as possible to reduce hardware costs.
"That’s where we make the business model work," said Capossela, 38, who worked in his earlier years at the company as a speech writing assistant for co-founder Bill Gates.
Spoken like a good outsourcer, but the question remains why Microsoft felt the need to get into this low margin business and squeeze out their partners who were already providing an equivalent service. The answer has to be fear of the Web app vendors like Google with whom they are already in competition and Microsoft’s inclination to do things themselves that they consider important instead of leaving them to partners. The canonical example of this is the tossing of the PlaysForSure partners under the Zune train.
Finally, Capossela refers to Exchange Online as "cloud computing" which was duly echoed by the punditry. While I concede that definitions of cloud computing are befittingly nebulous, most require that the computing resource be dynamically adaptive to changing demands and it is hard to see how outsourcing your Exchange Server to Microsoft really qualifies. On the other hand, if your prefer a big tent definition, then the Microsoft partners who will see their Exchange hosting revenues stagnate or dry up in the face of Exchange Online can extract cold comfort from the thought that they beat Microsoft by years in putting Exchange in the cloud.
Today Apple announced the iPhone 2.0 software beta with a variety of business-use features including support for Microsoft Exchange email users. Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Exchange explains:
We’re happy that Apple is adding the iPhone to the growing number of mobile devices that connect with Exchange Server. As part of a business agreement with Microsoft, Apple will build Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync into the iPhone – making it possible for iPhone owners to access Exchange and take advantage of its secure mobile communications features.
The Apple iPhone is one of those popular devices that now join the long list of smartphones able to connect to Exchange. This is one of those win-win propositions in that it helps us serve iPhone users, and it helps Apple serve the needs of the enterprise.
Myerson takes pains to explain how Apple and Microsoft can both cooperate on Exchange access and compete in other areas simultaneously, but it isn’t a surprise – both are big enough with enough breadth of product that it is inevitable.