Ok, I can almost feel Deven (My buddy at Microsoft) cringing as this blog entry starts. Lets get to the point. Bluehost is big enough now and has enough medium sized businesses that use Microsoft Exchange that we are considering adding it to our list of services. Bluehost has made its mark in the hosting industry by offering low cost hosting with an emphasis on customer service. This isn’t exactly the market Exchange is going after, but we have had enough customers come to us asking after Exchange that it is something we are looking at offering. Here is the problem…
Microsoft is a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them, or is it? Microsoft exists in its current form by having mediocre software (In my not so humble opinion) that has always started off at ridiculously low prices. As the customer base grows and competition diminishes the prices go up and the quality of the software goes down (Internet Explorer is a PERFECT example of this). The quandary that Microsoft is in is how to make more money from a product that almost everyone already has (Office, and Windows OS). The answer is services. I don’t think Microsoft likes the answer, but it doesn’t change the fact that everything in our massively networked world is going online and most of the apps we use today will be run on or over the web sometime in the not so distant future.
So what to do, what to do? Microsoft needs users of its services for a lasting and recurring revenue stream and so of course the first thing they decided to do was shoot itself in the foot. Hear my out on this one – Microsoft is competing in a world where it will NEVER be the low price leader again. Linux is an incredible server operating system, but in my opinion still has a way to go to be viable on the desktop (Start the email flames now please). However, in applications running over the web Linux is the best option out there. The best part is that everyone using Windows at home would never know they were even using a Linux server. Our customers don’t care if they are on Linux or Windows for our hosting, they just want it to work. Exchange hosting is the same, or very close. This doesn’t mean I think open source Exchange solutions are better. In fact I don’t believe that at all, what I KNOW is that Microsoft still acts as if they are the only game in town, which clearly isn’t the case anymore. Let me give you some examples that make me scratch my head at what the “brains” at Microsoft have come up with to “dazzle” the potential client.
1 – Microsoft refuses to give you any price guarantee on server licenses or Msql licenses. The price is “x” today and in 12 months it could be “y”. It could stay the same or it could double. I was “assured” that they were working for “us” the clients to make sure costs were kept down. Thats like asking a Lion to guard a pile of steaks for you. Come on?!?!?!?
2 – Microsoft has decided their “partners” are idiots and so are building their own Exchange Hosting solution that comes out in less than a year. What does this mean? Lets look at this logically for a minute (Not my strong point ). The company that builds and licenses Windows Server (Not cheap), and Msql, and Exchange is going to to sell/license all that software to me and then promote their own product to compete with me for the business that I just gave a ton of money to license. I don’t think so! And many Exchange providers will agree with me, much to the chagrin of Microsoft. My costs are only a little bit higher right?
3 – Its expensive. Its really expensive for what you get. The alternatives provide almost all the same functionality for literally 1/20th the cost. That isn’t a recipe for success in anyones book and Microsoft knows it. Again, how to respond? As fast as possible. I would do the same. I would get as many clients as I could as fast as I could and give them a quality product with service like no other to keep them on board. Unfortunately for Microsoft they don’t excel (Good pun huh??) at either of those and their marketing doesn’t suggest they are cognisant of any of the issues I have mentioned above.
Clearly we are just another fish in the Microsoft pond. I would love to offer Exchange services to our clients in one form or another. I am just having trouble giving my money and clients over to a company that I think has a COMPLETELY different vision and direction from how I run my own business. In the end its what our customers want and demand from us, but that may or may not be the Microsoft solution…
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com