With the usual fanfare, Microsoft (MSFT) launched its latest version of Exchange Server, its enterprise communications platform, this week at its Berlin TechEd conference in Germany. Exchange Server 2010 is not only an updated version of the popular e-mail and messaging system; it’s designed to provide a heightened level of communication and collaboration to business users, and it furthers the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant’s foray into cloud computing.
Exchange 2010, however, enters the market at a time of great ferment and heightened competition in the business e-mail-and-collaboration sphere – and as the highest-priced competitor as well, facing up against lower-cost offerings from tech giants including Cisco, IBM, and Google. To many observers, in fact, the new Exchange only highlights what’s not going well for MS in the corporate unified-communications arena.
Designed "to help businesses reduce costs, protect communications, and delight e-mail users," as the company Web site put it, Exchange 2010 is a key element of Microsoft’s new generation of solutions, which includes Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. These new products, wrote CEO Steve Ballmer on the company blog, represent “a wave of new software created specifically to enable businesses to tackle their most pressing challenges and strengthen their ability to deliver innovation to the marketplace.”
Previewed earlier this year as the largest server beta in Microsoft history, Exchange Server 2010 is being promoted as a software platform designed from scratch to work as both traditional licensed software and in a software-as-a-service model.
Microsoft also said last week that it has cut the price of its online productivity suite, helpfully called “Business Productivity Online Suite” -- including cloud-based versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communications Server -- to $10 per user from $15. Exchange 2010 offers new features such as integrated e-mail archiving, a “Mail Tips” feature designed to prevent inadvertent sends, plus enhanced e-mail management functions. To tout the muscular communications/collaboration power of its new server, Microsoft has created a Web site called “The New Efficiency.”
Microsoft, however, is facing increased competition from free or low-cost corporate email and messaging systems. Google Inc. (GOOG) recently won a high-profile contract from the city of Los Angeles to support its e-mail system. IBM (IBM) recently released a competing system, Lotus iNotes, that charges only $3 per user, and Cisco (CSCO) said it will add e-mail capabilities to its WebEx collaboration platform.
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