Microsoft Matters, Choice Rules

A blogger from SMB IT Pros recently posed the following questions, regarding the relevance of Microsoft in the IT marketplace:
Why do I need Exchange, Sharepoint, or Office to run my business? What value do they add beyond the free or nearly free applications I can now find online?
These are not new questions, and they’re questions we ourselves have asked. In fact, our business was originally founded on the idea that we should offer an alternative to Microsoft Exchange, which we have done successfully through Noteworthy. Yet, we have learned a few things over the years, and those lessons have driven us to offer Hosted Exchange, in addition to Noteworthy.
– Microsoft products are still more feature-rich than their alternatives. Compare Word to Google Docs. Compare SharePoint to any of the web-based alternatives. Compare Exchange to Noteworthy. What you’ll find in every case is that Microsoft products bring more to the table, even if they also typically bring a higher price tag and a deeper level of complexity. Every business needs to do a cost-benefit analysis, but the reality is that many businesses need the features that Microsoft software applications have to offer.
– People are used to Microsoft products. Case in point, about 60% of our Noteworthy customers use Microsoft Outlook every day to check their email, even though we offer a feature-rich webmail client. People have grown used to Outlook. They like it and they don’t want to change. And why would they? Outlook is still the most powerful email client in the world.
– Businesses want it. While Noteworthy has been a huge success (we host more than 750,000 paid business mailboxes on the Noteworthy email hosting platform), we were missing opportunities every day because we didn’t host Exchange. People in the startup world can speculate all day long about whether or not Microsoft is relevant (of course, some of them also argue that email doesn’t work anymore), but I can tell you right now, we talk to businesses every day that want Hosted Exchange. And with 180 million mailboxes deployed worldwide (according to the Gartner Group), I don’t think Exchange is going away anytime soon.
I believe that some people enjoy hating Microsoft because they’re the big guys. But the reality is, Microsoft is still the greatest software company in the world. And many of their products are the most relevant in the world.
So, if that’s the case, why do we still offer Noteworthy? Because we believe that people, and businesses, want choice. They want successful, relevant alternatives. Here are some examples of choice I can see, just by looking around our office:
– I can’t imagine giving up Microsoft Windows on my computer. But, I’d estimate that 1/4 of my employees use Ubuntu, an open-source operating system.
– I haven’t fired up Outlook in almost three years. But, while I use webmail every day, many of my employees use Outlook, Thunderbird, and some other obscure email clients.
I am addicted to my Blackberry. But if you walk around our office, you’ll see iPhones, Windows Mobile, and all kinds of other mobile devices.
And, for our customers, a choice of mail platforms is starting to become a really big deal, too. Some businesses want Exchange. Some businesses want a lower-cost Exchange alternative, which is Noteworthy if you host your email with us. And an increasing number of customers want the best of both worlds (some employees need the full capabilities of Exchange while others do not).
The bottom line: Microsoft matters. Choice rules.

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