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.