Over the past year, with a myriad of vendors jumping into the business email market, I have been asked by press and customers how Exchange grew to its current leadership position and how we have continued to earn this position over time.  The history of Exchange is an interesting journey with ups and downs, but in terms of the secret to its success, the story is quite simple – it’s always been, and continues to be, about consistent innovation and focus on real customer needs.  The minute you stop either of these two things, your leadership position will waiver – and rightfully so.  In my discussions about how Exchange earned its leadership, I’ve found people are both surprised and impressed, so I wanted to share this more broadly. 

When you look back over the history of Exchange, we have pushed the innovation limit at every release.  Back in the 1990s, Exchange Outlook Web App (OWA) made a revolutionary move by introducing the foundation of AJAX to deliver a better browser based interface.  With Exchange 2010, we re-architected OWA to fully support Firefox, Safari and IE while introducing integrated instant messaging and presence, the ability to send and receive SMS text messages from the inbox and the continual scroll, so you never have to click to see all your messages.  In Exchange 2003, we released the Exchange ActiveSync EAS protocol that is now used by Apple, Google, Nokia and Palm for their mobile messaging, and is the protocol that Gartner has labeled “the de-facto standard” in mobile messaging.  In Exchange 2007, we introduced a full voicemail system with our Unified Messaging solution and in Exchange 2010, we added speech-to-text preview, so you never have to listen to a voicemail again.  In Exchange 2010, we built a fully integrated email archiving right into the messaging system, breaking down the barriers between the mailbox and the archive.  And, always with the end user in mind, Exchange and Outlook together offered the first application that brought together email, calendaring, contacts and tasks.  In 2010, we introduce the Outlook social connector, MailTips and conversation clean up. 

It is fun to look back at the advances we have been able to consistently bring to market with each Exchange release.  And, now with Exchange Online we have the ability to continue to deliver innovations at an even faster rate.  Regarding Exchange Online, we are also taking a unique approach by delivering both the Exchange Server and Exchange Online service using the same code base.  This means IT admins get the same rich experience whether they are working with Exchange Server or Exchange Online (or both) and users have the same, consistent experience regardless of where their mailbox resides.  Unlike others vendors who have either acquired an email service vendor to move online or are only offering hosted email, Exchange is distinct in the industry for taking the approach we have.  This is a herculean task and thankfully the Exchange team has the dedication and determination to pull it off.   It is this ability to consistently advance technological solutions -- from being the foundation of AJAX to being the only vendor to deliver software and services on the same code base -- that keeps our customers satisfied and confident they made the right choice. 

But innovations for innovation sake do not earn leadership. Technology advances that drive meaningful customer value will always win.  To that end, Exchange has earned and maintained our position by helping customers increase productivity and efficiency every day, in very real ways.  Some of my favorite examples of this come from our new Exchange 2010 customers:

From our Boeing case study: With Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging, Boeing employees will have more control over how and when they respond to voice mail. “The speech-to-text features will be great for our 20,000 or so mobile device users because they will be able to access their voice-mail messages even if they can’t call into the system,” Dean Sepstrup, Product Manager for Exchange at Boeing.  Because Boeing has offices in many countries, many Boeing employees will also enjoy having the voice-mail service in their local language.

From the Binaria case study: “We used to spend one or two days looking for information we needed for legal requirements. Now, with multi-mailbox search in Exchange Server 2010, we can find what we need in an hour or less.”  Julio Sandoval, Head of Middleware at Binaria.

From the Land Bank of Taiwan case study:  “With Exchange Server 2010, when we need to move mailboxes between e-mail servers, we don’t have to disrupt users,” says Min-feen Liang, Information Management Office. “They don’t even know it’s happening, so e-mail services are always available to them.  And, more than half of our employees access e-mail from home or public computers.  They can pick up Outlook Web App easily because it is much more like Office Outlook, which they are accustomed to using.”

That is just a snap shot of the history of Exchange; there is obviously much more to this story. But, net/net, leadership is hard earned and only maintained when you have the winning mix of innovation and customer focus.  Exchange’s dedication on both fronts has gotten us to this place and by continuing our leadership in these areas I believe customers will continue to choose Exchange Server and Exchange Online well into the future. 

Looking for more information on Exchange? Be sure to check out:

-        Additional customer profiles on our Unified Communications website

-        Download the Exchange 2010 trial

-        Read the Forrester White Paper: Total Economic Impact of Exchange 2010  

Julia White 
Director, Exchange Product Management