Microsoft Expands Its Online Services

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2008-03-02 Print this article Print

The  driving force behind the move is for Microsoft to compete with Google, which has been making inroads with its hosted e-mail offering, an ex-official says.

SEATTLE-As Microsoft ratchets up its software-plus-services offering, the company will use its annual Office SharePoint Conference March 3 to announce that it is expanding its existing online services to businesses of all sizes. 

Microsoft now plans to offer hosted Exchange Online and Office SharePoint Online together with Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting, either as a suite of services or as individual service offerings,  Eron Kelly, a director in Microsoft's business online services group, told eWEEK ahead of the conference.

Microsoft made its online services available to businesses with more than 5,000 users last September, and this announcement extends those services to businesses of all sizes.

The software giant will also announce a limited beta trial of Exchange Online and SharePoint Online to customers of all sizes March 3.

These services are expected to be generally available to businesses in the second half of the year, while the beta for Office Communications online will be available in the second half of this calendar year and available in early 2009.

The move is the first step in Microsoft's bigger plan of making all of its software and server products available as a service, either hosted by the software company and its partners, or on-premises, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates will tell attendees in his keynote address at the conference March 3, Kelly said.

Read here Joe Wilcox's take on Microsoft's hosting strategy. 

But to Keith McCall, a former Microsoft executive and now the chief technology officer of Azaleos, which provides a managed on-premises Exchange solution, the primary driving force behind this push is for Microsoft to be able to compete with Google, which has been making inroads with its hosted e-mail offering.

"Both Microsoft and Google are stampeding to deliver hosted off-premises services, and partners in the path will have to get out of the way or get flattened. This is direct and clear competition and a channel conflict with those partners who have all offered hosted Microsoft Exchange via Microsoft's Service Provider Licensing Agreement," he said.

Microsoft's new "resale" agreement likely will not be well-received by those hosting companies that have had to build up significantly costly infrastructures to support their customers, McCall said.

While Microsoft's Kelly acknowledged that these services could compete with some of the company's current partners, most of those partners were already looking at ways to differentiate themselves and their offerings from what will be a standardized offering from Microsoft, he said.

With regard to its existing hosting partners, Kelly said they will provide more customized experiences that are specific to certain verticals and integrated with their other services.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel