In the last seven years or so the adoption of open-source solutions has been breathtaking and Microsoft is not sitting on the sidelines watching this happen from afar. They have to be concerned about Linux and myriad open-source software products as well as web-based solutions from companies like Google.
One of the beautiful things about open-source software is you can download it and try it for free. If you like it you can buy a business-class version of the solution or you can pay for support.
This approach of giving it away for a while before your customers have to pay for it is not unprecedented in tech. I remember years back when 3COM was trying to get the small business market to implement computer networks, they gave away network cards on the cheap hoping companies would se the benefits of networking and buy more cards at retail prices. This approach worked.
Microsoft is no stranger to this sort of approach either. In the video game space it is not unusual to lose money on the player and make money on the games.
In my memory the most strategic use of this technique to unseat a category leader was in 1992. At the time Borland’s Paradox database owned the desktop database market but the product was expensive at around $600 per desktop.
Microsoft introduced a competing database program called Access for $99 and took over the market overnight. In this case there was no need to up the price because the company made much more revenue and achieved greater earnings as the adoption of Access was much greater than that of Paradox.
Microsoft it seems is trying to think outside the box once again by giving away a free trial of Exchange Server 2007 which includes unified messaging, enhanced security and increased efficiency.
The giant of Redmond is partnering with Unisys to offer Exchange as a managed service. So indeed this is really thinking outside the box as you don’t need a box to run the software. Why Unisys? I am not sure but Microsoft says in a press release that Unisys is a great partner to help them build a bullet-proof hosted service.
Net.com is also involved in this announcement providing voice integration assistance. Here is another company that fell off the collective radar for a few years. I have written about this company’s military VoIP products in a past issue of Internet Telephony Magazine. So Net.com is back and they are now calling themselves Network Equipment Technologies.
Interestingly the last time the majority of us consistently heard of Unisys was when Microsoft Access was first introduced about 15 years ago. Perhaps this partnership will allow Unisys and NET to get more press coverage and at the same allow Microsoft to combat the threat of open-source and competing web-based applications. My contacts at Microsoft are very proud of this latest version of Exchange and at a recent Dialogic analyst event, Microsoft’s Cliff Didcock said the company hopes the penetration of unified messaging goes from about 10% to 50+%. Obviously allowing companies to try before they buy and offering a managed solution are two great ways to increase corporate adoption of this latest e-mail server. In the process the company should see a greater adoption of Unified Messaging and Unified Communications.