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Volume 5, Number 9 -- March 5, 2008

SMBs Get the MOS Attention From Microsoft

Published: March 5, 2008

by Alex Woodie

Microsoft announced this week plans to deliver hosted versions of Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and Office Communications Server to small and mid size businesses (SMBs) under its Microsoft Online Services (MOS) banner, which was previously restricted to customers with 5,000 or more seats. A limited beta of the SMB MOS offering has already begun, with general availability slated for the second half of the year. Meanwhile, Microsoft launched several other tools aimed at giving SMBs a greater online presence.

The new SMB MOS offering is based on the enterprise MOS offering that features hosted Exchange and SharePoint servers that Microsoft introduced last fall. Microsoft is also selling access to Office Communications Online, the software as a service (SaaS) version of the new Office Communications Server 2007, and Office Live Meeting. Since that launch, the MOS has been put to use by several high-profile businesses, including Autodesk, Blockbuster, Ceridian, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Energizer Holdings, Ingersoll-Rand, PFT-Medway, and XL Capital, Microsoft said this week.

Now, Microsoft is hoping to rack up thousands of SMB accounts with a new SMB MOS offering that gives smaller businesses the same access to online solutions as bigger companies, including e-mail, calendaring, contacts, shared workspaces, Web conferencing, and videoconferencing. Like the enterprise MOS offering, the SMB MOS offering will allow users to access these applications from a single Web site, while systems administrators are provided their own screens for managing users and licenses, monitoring the performance, and submitting support requests to the company that's actually running the software for the customer.

While MOS is geared toward the SaaS delivery model, Microsoft is giving customers options according to Bill Gates, the company's chief software architect. "With Microsoft Online Services, businesses can deploy software as a subscription service, from servers they manage on-site, or a combination of the two, depending on their specific needs," he says.

And in a bit of a bombshell, Gates says this sort of choice eventually will be available across a wide swath of Microsoft products. "In the future, customers and partners should expect to see this kind of choice and flexibility for all of Microsoft's software and server products," he says.

A limited beta for the SMB versions of MOS has already started. Interested parties can sign up at www.mosbeta.com. When the offering becomes generally available in a July toDecember timeframe, Microsoft says customers with and without Software Assurance (SA) will be able to buy subscriptions, on a per-user basis, although those with SA will get a discount. All types of MOS customers--big and small, SA and non-SA--will be able to run the software themselves or contract with a third-party provider to run it for them. Obviously, it will cost more in the long run to have somebody else run it for you.

So far, Microsoft has signed up seven partners under its MOS practice: Atos Origin, an $8 billion IT services provider based in France; BT, the British telecom giant and IT consultancy; Ceryx, a large hosted e-mail provider based in Toronto; Evolve Partners, a Southern California IT services provider that specializes in SMBs; Getronics, the Dutch IT services giant; HCL Technologies, an Indian IT services firm; and Unisys, the Pennsylvania-based IT services giant.

Microsoft has been giving SMBs lots of attention lately. Just two weeks ago, Microsoft introduced the Windows Server Essential brand, which includes the Windows Small Business Server 2008 for small organizations and Windows Essential Server 2008 for midsize businesses.

In other SMB news this week, Microsoft announced worldwide availability of the beta for Office Live Workspace, a free online offering that Microsoft introduced last fall along with the enterprise MOS offering. Office Live Workspace allows existing Word, Outlook, Excel, and PowerPoint users to store up to 1,000 documents on Microsoft's servers, and to create a password protected online workspace on the Web where they can collaborate with others. Users can access the English-language beta at workspace.officelive.com.

Microsoft also announced the general availability of Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express, a free, downloadable search engine that it announced in November. Microsoft also announced pending availability of Silverlight Blueprint for SharePoint, which it says will jumpstart the development of rich Internet applications using the company's latest Silverlight Web development platforms.


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