Microsoft is pushing mobility and security additions on its
updated hosted messaging and collaboration suite, launched Monday.
The updated suite, Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and
Collaboration version 3.5, is targeted at small- to medium-sized
businesses (SMB) that want enterprise-grade applications but don't
have the resources to maintain the applications themselves.
Hosted by service providers, the suite offers online versions of
Exchange Server 2003, Live Communication Server 2005 and SharePoint
Services. Version 3 was launched in January.
The Redmond, Wash., company also launched the Microsoft Hosting
Program, a Web-based resource and download site. In addition to free
downloads of the Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and
Collaboration software and its updates, members get tool kits, case
studies and marketing resources to land new customers.
Program members are eligible to use the Service Provider License
Agreement, which lets them license Microsoft products on a per-user,
per-month basis rather than pay for a license up front.
"We think this is a really unique licensing capability that
allows [service providers] to keep their initial and capital outlay
to a minimum but provide the services on a pay-as-you-go basis to
end customers," said Morgan Cole, Microsoft senior product manager.
A direct-push component that synchronizes Windows Mobile
5.0-enabled devices, such as personal digital assistants
(PDA) and smartphones automatically is the key new feature in
the messaging and collaboration update. Now, mobile users can see
up-to-date updated calendar entries, contacts tasks and e-mails as
it hits the server.
Windows Mobile 5.0-enabled phones will be available in January,
The Redmond company has also added two security features aimed at
its mobile devices. A remote device wipe allows administrators to
erase data on stolen or lost devices while the policy provisioning
component enforces security measures such as requiring a login and
Other new features in Microsoft Solution for Hosted Messaging and
Collaboration version 3.5 include: a migration tool for adding new
hosted user accounts; automated password synchronization between
hoster directories and customer accounts; the ability to use
Microsoft Identity Integration Server 2003 to set up a federated
account for access to both an end user's workstation and hosted
account; and the latest service packs and updates to the key
components of the hosted software.
The hosted suite can be seen as the enterprise version to another
hosted offering recently launched by Microsoft, Windows Live and
The company known for its in-house software has seen a growing
demand for hosted solutions in the past year, said Stephan
Schirrecker, Microsoft director for hosting, from both large telcos
and smaller partners like Web hosters.
A growing number of service providers see the messaging and
collaboration suite as an opportunity to deliver another service to
its business customers, he said.
"A couple of years ago when we started this business we had a few
hosters or partners on the solutions," he said. "Now we have
hundreds of partners using either the Windows-based hosting
solutions or hosted Exchange. Especially last year, we've seen a
huge ramp up in the number of partner deployments."