Microsoft has announced this morning the availability of hosted Exchange, Sharepoint, collaboration and communication as part of the Microsoft Online suite. The hosted platform is a direct competitor to the Google App platform, which is currently available either for free or for as little as $50 per year.
The service plans for the Microsoft deals start from $3 per user per month – and with that plan users get an Exchange mailbox with webmail access, sharepoint server access and the basic communication tools such as messenger. The full hosted Exchange and Sharepoint, along with collaboration tools, starts at $15 per user per month – which is around $180 per year. While the alternatives are a lot cheaper, for most businesses an Exchange-based solution is at a different level than what Google or any other web-based company can provide.
Exchange already has deep penetration into the enterprise, and the online platform and suite integrates nicely with existing windows domains – so users can easily move users and mailboxes between hosted online or hosted on the local network. Pricing is a little more than what it would be with just an Exchange license, but it includes the hosted environment, administration tools and integration into other products such as hosted Dynamics CRM.
Microsoft also announced this morning that they will be paying partners a 12% fee for all new customers that they refer to the platform. Microsoft has a very large partner base (over 15,000 of them are currently meeting at the partner conference where this was announced), who are all ready to go out and sell this solution into businesses at all levels – something that Google does not have.