Blogger: Bill Pray
Scott Rosenberg offers two laws for producing software in his book Dreaming In Code:
Since every writer about software sooner or later ends up offering a law under his own name, the time has come for me, with all due humility, to present Rosendberg’s Law: Software is easy to make, except when you want it to do something new. And then, of course, there is a corollary: The only software that’s worth making is software that does something new.” (page 268, Dreaming In Code)
Hence, the challenge for Microsoft and the Exchange 2010 release – convince customers that it does something new enough to upgrade. Microsoft announced today the Exchange 2010 Release Candidate. This means that Exchange 2010 is feature complete and now the final drive to Microsoft’s planned release to market next year begins.
Some would argue that e-mail is just e-mail, and new releases don’t add anything really new. Supporting this argument is the view that with the advancement of technologies that handle team workspaces, social software, real time communications, and unified communications – e-mail is being relegated back to the purpose for which it was originally built – simple asynchronous communication. Therefore, what does Exchange 2010 offer that previous versions don’t offer for e-mail?
Two other criticisms of Exchange 2010 also beg the question as to why a customer should upgrade: 1. To get to Exchange 2010, it is not an in-place upgrade. It is a transition – like Exchange 2007. 2. Outlook 2010 doesn’t offer enough compelling “does something new” over Outlook 2007.
However, all of this may not matter much because Exchange 2010’s real target – it’s “something new” – is hosted delivery. Exchange 2010 is Microsoft’s attack on the enterprise Software-as-a-Service e-mail market – and it appears to be a pretty good one. The schema changes to the database that make a transition a requirement to upgrade also enable Exchange to scale and perform to the levels needed in a multi-tenant SaaS e-mail environment. While the productivity enhancements in Outlook 2010 might not be that compelling to some, the enhancements to Outlook Web Access (OWA) are more important in a SaaS delivery model. Also, the enhanced role-based management is intended to give the customer control over both their on-premise and SaaS e-mail environments. To ensure Exchange 2010 meets Microsoft’s goals for hosted solution, Microsoft shrewdly leveraged it’s Live@edu offering as a the ultimate beta site, with millions of university student users.
Microsoft is not unaware of the challenge – note the promise of co-existence with Exchange 2003 and 2007 in the announcement. While the enhancements in Exchange 2010 may certainly benefit an enterprise’s on-premise installation, ultimately, the challenge to convince them may not matter as enterprise customers increasingly look to a new delivery model – SaaS – for e-mail.