As someone intimately familiar with Microsoft Communication Services – I thought I would help our readers to understand the thinking behind Microsoft Communication Services, our recently announced initiative to help partners market hosted Unified Communications (UC) to small and medium sized (SMB) customers. It is a fundamental shift in how we market Partner hosted solutions.

When we started in 2000 we really only had one solution – Hosted Microsoft Exchange. We had a few pure-play providers who hung a shingle and said, “we have Microsoft Exchange – hosted – come and get it.” That was true with the launch of Exchange 2003 and again early in the launch of Exchange 2007.

But things have changed since those days and our thinking has evolved as we go after the market in a focused way on a worldwide scale.

 First, hosted unified communications is more than just Microsoft Exchange; it includes Microsoft SharePoint and Office Communication Server as well.  While the combined features of these products are sophisticated, the messaging to end customers needs to be simple.

We learned that saying that saying “hosted Microsoft Exchange” didn’t resonate with the small and medium sized businesses.  SMBs may not recognize Microsoft Exchange or Office Communication Server as products, but they are extremely familiar with Microsoft Outlook and the benefits of combining business class email with presence and voice.

Comcast launched with this new approach to messaging in beta over the last 18 months and achieved tremendous results.  They were recently named our Communications Sector partner of the year in recognition of their contribution to the program. We want to enable other partners to win the hearts and minds of customers with our UC products and think this approach will help us do that.

My feelings about the initiative – WOW – as a Microsoft marketer who has worked on solving problems for partners over the last 4 years, I’m excited by the changes, this makes marketing Microsoft and partner solutions so much more straightforward.  I really see this as a win for our partners. .  Let us know what you think of the new initiative and other ideas you have to make adoption of UC with SMBs easier.