In her March 22, 2007 blog entry, Mary Jo Foley makes some predictions about the direction of Microsoft's hosted plans:
Via its partners, Microsoft currently makes available hosted versions of Exchange Server, Dynamics CRM, Windows Server, SQL Server, Live Communications Server and Microsoft Operations Manager, among other products.
But by the end of this year, Microsoft will field the first of what some partners are expecting to be a slew of Microsoft-hosted Microsoft products.
Time to take bets: How long before Microsoft releases versions of Exchange Server and SharePoint Server that the company hosts itself — i.e., delivers as Live services? In other words, when do you expect to see Exchange Server Live and SharePoint Server Live to debut from Microsoft?
My purely unscientific guess? End of 2007/early 2008 — at least in pilot form.
Does this direction surprise anyone? Between statements from Ballmer, Ozzie, and just about every other VP, I don't see how our services direction could possibly catch any partner or customer by surprise. Talk to any product team in the company, and they'll likely tell you that their management chain has pushed software + services to the top of their organizational commitments. Customers are demanding it, the industry is turning toward it, and Microsoft is doing some amazing things to prepare for the future in this space.
This is what attracted me to Microsoft a year ago, and working in an enterprise hosted services organization focusing entirely on SharePoint puts me on the front line of Microsoft's software + services strategy.