Microsoft launched a handful of new initiatives for both consumers and businesses this week. In addition to Exchange Server 2010, the new version of its messaging and collaboration platform, Microsoft also added features to Bing, including a more robust video page and search results from Wolfram Alpha, a computational engine that nominally returns a single numerical answer or chart in response to a search query. Microsoft also saw its market share for both Bing and Windows 7 creep up incrementally, as Redmond battles a variety of competitors ranging from Google to Apple for points amidst a still-tight economic climate.
Specifically, Microsoft's executives suggested to eWEEK and other media
outlets that users could save costs through Exchange Server 2010 thanks to
features such as a unified approach to data backup-which would save companies
money by bringing disaster recovery backup in-house-and a lower-cost storage
model that would also increase the size of individual mailboxes from several
hundred megabytes to anything between 2GB and 10GB.
Microsoft finds itself increasingly challenged in the messaging and
collaboration arena by companies such as Cisco Systems, which announced the
release of Cisco WebEx Mail on Nov. 9. That hosted e-mail application allows
customers to move from Microsoft Exchange yet continue to access e-mail through
an Outlook client. Another potential challenge to Microsoft's messaging stack
comes from Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook, which lets Google Apps users
rely on the Outlook interface for accessing their messages.
A few days before Microsoft's Exchange Server 2010 announcement, Mozilla
also rolled out Thunderbird 3, the next version of its open-source e-mail
application. The open-source foundation claims that it made over 2,000
improvements to the platform, including major features such as filtered
search-which allows users to apply a variety of filters such as date and name
when searching through their e-mail-and a streamlined mail account setup
During the TechEd conference, Microsoft executives kept repeating the phrase
"the new efficiency," a meme first started by CEO
Steve Ballmer before the release of Windows 7. According to a Sept. 29 letter
signed by Ballmer, this "new efficiency" is supposed to represent
IT's need to become more efficient and cost-effective to "not only help
companies respond to today's economic reality" but help "lay the
foundation for systems and solutions that connect people to information,
applications and ... other people in new ways."
Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop said during his keynote
speech at TechEd that the "new efficiency" suggested that
"sustainable growth is not going to come from cutting costs" but from
"improvements in productivity and new innovation."
On the consumer-oriented side of things, Microsoft
announced on Nov. 11 that it will be rolling out new functionality for its
search engine, Bing, over the coming weeks. Although Microsoft has not
officially branded the update "Bing
v2.0," some of the added features are substantial enough to constitute
In a challenge to the dominance of Google's YouTube, Microsoft seriously
beefed up the capabilities of Bing's video page, integrating feeds from Hulu, MSN
Video and ABC into its lineup. Bing Videos
will now offer more than 900 television shows, according to Microsoft
Bing's core functionality, search, also received a boost on a number of
fronts. In addition to localized results for weather and events, and tweaked
Bing Shopping, the engine will begin incorporating results from Wolfram Alpha,
the computational engine that delivers a definitive answer-usually numerical-in
response to a search query.
"We'll be providing access to Wolfram Alpha's advanced algorithms and
expertly curated data within the Bing experience," Pedro Silva, Bing
product manager, and Tracey Yao, Bing program manager, wrote
in a Nov. 11 posting on the official Bing blog.
The brainchild of Stephen Wolfram, founder and CEO
of Wolfram Research, the Wolfram Alpha site originally launched on May 18, with
a further expansion of its capabilities over the summer. Although of particular
interest to those in academia and business for its computational abilities,
some of Wolfram Alpha's functionality includes the display of nutritional data
in response to a search query such as "chicken breast."
Bing has been increasing its search engine share. On Nov. 11, Experian
Hitwise issued a research note wherein it estimated Bing as occupying 9.6
percent of that market by the end of October, while Google had 70.6 percent and
Yahoo 16.1 percent. In addition to possibly attracting more users through its
new features, Bing could also draw in more points' worth of market share through
Microsoft's seemingly imminent search-and-advertising deal with Yahoo, which if
approved by all parties and federal regulators will see Bing power back-end
search on Yahoo's Websites.
Given the wave of new products, it may perhaps come as no surprise that
Microsoft also launched an anti-piracy Twitter feed. Started on Nov. 3, tweets
from the page will focus on "issues of pirated and counterfeit
software," according to Redmond.
Microsoft may have more cause to worry about pirated software now that it
seems adoption rates are picking up. A report by statistics company Net
Applications suggests that the new
operating system now occupies 4 percent of the overall PC market, outpacing
Windows Vista, which took six months to reach that particular milestone.
Net Applications estimated that Windows operating systems currently hold around
92.52 percent of that market, compared with 5.27 percent for Mac and 0.96
percent for Linux.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.