Microsoft aims for smaller firms

From Bloomberg News

Microsoft Corp. said Monday it would begin selling Web-based programs to smaller customers, countering a challenge from Google Inc.

The company would begin testing online editions of its Exchange and SharePoint Server programs for companies with fewer than 5,000 employees, Senior Vice President Chris Capossela said. Blockbuster Inc. and Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. are already customers for a service designed for larger companies, he said.

As many as half of Microsoft’s customers for the Exchange e-mail and SharePoint information-sharing software may use the Web-based versions in five years, making them a business worth billions, Capossela said. Microsoft, which bid $44.6 billion last month for Yahoo Inc., is competing with Google and IBM Corp. for the attention of chief information officers who want to trim their technology costs.


Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., began selling Internet versions of Exchange and SharePoint Server for companies with more than 5,000 workers in October. Exchange handles corporate e-mail, while SharePoint allows workers to set up websites for sharing files and collaborating on projects.

Unlike traditional programs that companies install and maintain on their own computers, Microsoft delivers the Web- based versions from a string of top-secret data centers.

At Microsoft’s test facility, an unmarked building in an office park 20 minutes from the company’s headquarters, the 1,000 pieces of computer and network equipment are protected by layers of security software and a “man trap” system.

To get past the first door, workers swipe an identification card. A palm scan is required for the second door. If that fails, they end up trapped. Man traps also weigh people entering to make sure they don’t have any unauthorized guests, and check for a pulse to verify that the hand on the palm scanner hasn’t been severed.