By Mike Vizard
Solution providers may have just heard the shot fired around the world when Microsoft announced today at CeBIT that it is now offering beta versions of both Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint as online services for all customers.
Previously, Microsoft had limited this service offering to only large enterprise customers, but today Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer signaled the company's intention to offer these services to all types of customers.
For many solution providers in the channel, Exchange and SharePoint have been the linchpins of a services model that has hinged on the complexities associated with installing and managing both SharePoint and Exchange. With Microsoft now offering these products as services to all customers, solution providers will essentially find themselves competing with Microsoft.
In general, their options would be either to argue that installing Exchange or SharePoint on premises still has merit, develop their own managed service offerings to compete with Microsoft or opt to resell the Microsoft Exchange or SharePoint service.
In all three cases, the advent of these services represents a major shift in the relationship between Microsoft and the solution provider community that Microsoft has been telegraphing under its Software Plus Services marketing campaign. The only question that remains for the solution provider community is whether it wants to continue to go along with Microsoft or whether this represents a seminal moment where solution providers might consider trying to move their customers to other platforms.