Is Anti-Spam Microsofts Next Target Industry?

The company says its free anti-spam add-on for Exchange servers gives customers more for their money-but how do its smaller rivals match up to someone who is giving away a competing product for free?

At the risk of seeming ungrateful, I have to wonder whether Microsofts free anti-spam add-on for Exchange servers is really such a good deal.

Sure, it is for me, right now, but isnt this the sort of "good deal" that got Microsoft into trouble with the feds over Netscape? The same sort of "good deal" that eventually drove WordPerfect and Lotus to ruin? Or Apple, DR-DOS, et al?

This is another case where we have to consider the "Microsoft question," which is: How many browsers/office suites/desktop operating systems/whatever does the marketplace really need? How many are customers willing to support with their dollars? How many "standards" need to exist?

So far, the answer has been a resounding "one." Thats one desktop OS, one Office suite and one browser.

Does the world need only one anti-spam technology? I dont think so, but its something Id like to explore. Microsofts anti-spam competitors, meanwhile, should already be consulting lawyers.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about Microsofts plan to merge its Caller ID for E-mail anti-spam proposal with the Sender Policy Framework.

There is a legitimate question as to whether the mighty Microsoft should ever be allowed to give anything away. At least anything somebody else is already selling.

Microsofts answer to this—and it also is legit—centers around giving customers more for their money. Microsoft does a good job of that, but in a way that decimates less-well-heeled competitors.

How does a one-product company compete with someone who is giving a competing product away for free? And can do so forever? Netscape sure couldnt.

Take my personal situation: I have an Exchange server, and spam is a big problem in my life—and potentially an expensive one. Microsoft now solves this problem for free.

And the new Intelligent Message Filtering technology, already proven on Hotmail and in Outlook 2003, works quite well. Heck, Id probably have been willing to pay for it, though Id hate for Microsoft to think so.

Thank you, Microsoft.

By comparison, a 25-user version of Sunbelt Softwares iHateSpam for Exchange sells for $395, plus a 25 percent annual maintenance agreement.

So, for my tiny network, Microsofts Intelligent Message Filter giveaway saved me more than $500. For a small business, that isnt inconsequential, and for an enterprise, where IMF can be used across a large network—again for free—that savings can really add up.

Of course, money that remains in my pocket is only a good deal for me. But in this case, money that stays in my pocket wont be spent on someone elses anti-spam solution.

Next Page: Microsoft raises concerns when it starts giving something away.