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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Exchange 2010--New Software, Old Paradigm

On Tuesday I went to Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 RC2 and Microsoft Exchange 2010 launching at KL Convention Center. The party was great, the speakers were convincing and nice, and the food was... well, there was no food.

I was mildly impressed by Windows 7 and Server 2008, but Microsoft Exchange was a huge let down.

It wasn't that the software was poorly done. The Exchange server interface was OK, the web version of the outlook client was fully AJAX, and overall it seemed that it was quite good a tool for its purpose.

The only problem is, in my mind, the days for server-client  based Email programs are over. Back in the antediluvian days when web browser market was monopolized by the much-hated IE6 , Exchange, and outlook were the only acceptable email servers and clients existed on desktop. There was no reliable web application substitute because IE6 hindered web application so much that  developers had no choice but to continue write for desktop application.

But no one, not even the mighty Microsoft could hold back the pace of innovation. Firefox busted into the scene, broke the tyranny of IE, and suddenly web development became fun again! Developers started to write applications for web, and more and more applications were shifting to the webs and consumers suddenly found that web apps are much more convenient than desktop apps and that really worried Microsoft, so it pushed out IE7 faster than scheduled. Gmail is the web 2.0 app fanboy, showing us what can a web app does.

Which is what makes Exchange 2010 looked so pale in comparison. I would have to install Exchange on server, I still have to do that in 2010 version.  This is completely unacceptable; what can't Microsoft make the a complete online system for email management, instead of a desktop application? Google Enterprise is entirely web-based. And we can completely manage and configure our blogging platform, e-commerce platform, news platform entirely on the web ( think about CMS systems such as Drupal), it shouldn't be so difficult for Microsoft to make Exchange 2010 web-based, or is it?

Looks like despite the rhetoric "web is the future", Microsoft thinking is still deeply,hopelessly rooted in desktop application. I can only wish them good luck, for the trend is moving towards web, not away from it.


Waleed Al-Balooshi said...

Actually, Microsoft do provide a hosted solution for Exchange - Microsoft Exchange Online. Currently it's using an Exchange 2007 infrastructure, but they will probably upgrade to Exchange 2010 once it is out.

Also, I think it is smart that Microsoft go with both a Server model and a hosted model, because each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The last company I worked for and the current one require that they have full control of the e-mail environment - including having the e-mail storage, archives, etc. be on our servers - so a Google solution is out of the question, whereas an Exchange one works. If Exchange moved to a web only solution we will surely not be upgrading to a new version.

And for those that don't want to deal with the quirks of installing and managing an Exchange server, they can go with the hosted Exchange solution.

It seems that this is the model that Microsoft is following and it is a smart one. Cater for the individuals or organizations that want full control by providing server software and for the rest provide a hosted web solution. This is what is happening with Exchange, SQL Server, and even their Online Office suite that is in beta. You can either have Microsoft host your documents or have the Online Office Suite be hosted on your servers.

Soon Hui said...

Waleed Al-Balooshi, maybe you misunderstood my point.

I am not saying that Microsoft should provide a hosted solution ( although it really should, and it does-- kudos to Microsoft), my point is that Microsoft should allow system admin to manage the Exchange right from web browser. The corporate can still purchase Exchange Server out of box, install it on their servers, maintain it, but when it comes to email management, everything should be done via web interface, not via the Exchange Server Desktop Application .

Hope this clears up my point.

Waleed Al-Balooshi said...

I am sorry, I did misunderstand your point and do agree that Microsoft would be wise to provide a proper web interface for administering Exchange, since they currently don't have one.

With Exchange 2010 they have changed OWA to be Outlook Web App and added what they call "Exchange Control Panel". This control panel will allow for administration of Exchange through the web, but I am not sure what capabilities will be provided through it. I believe this is a good start though.