Why Aren't Microsoft Exchange Alternatives as Good or as Popular as Exchange Server?

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The Popularity of Exchange

Exchange Server is Microsoft’s messaging server application. First released as Exchange Server 4.0 in early 1996, Exchange has undergone several makeovers in its 12 year commercial lifespan. Exchange provides e-mail and calendaring functionality to enterprises of all sizes. The current version is called Exchange Server 2007 and was released at the end of 2006.

Microsoft’s Exchange Server is the king of the corporate messaging world. This is confirmed by everyone else wanting to produce the ‘exchange-killer. InfoWorld Magazine even had a Technology of the Year Award category called Best Exchange-Killer Application. When was the last time you heard a marketing team refer to their messaging solution as a Groupwise-killer? Or an IMail-killer? Or even a Notes-killer?

Alternatives to Exchange

This is a term the upstarts of messaging servers like to use. Zimbra, PostPath, Scalix, Gordano, etc have all at some point been referred to as exchange-killers or called themselves the same. Such is the lofty goal to which they aspire. The problem is, however, that Exchange and the market in general, are not stagnant. Exchange listens to its customers and reconciles their customers’ needs with Microsoft’s own goals of moving forward and remaining current and competitive. This is not to say that their competition doesn’t want to do the same, but the experience and effort put forth by Microsoft with Exchange Server is hard to challenge.

Where is the Competition?

It is still a very competitive market out there and many messaging applications maintain a reasonably healthy market share. Microsoft Exchange however, is still believed to hold the largest installation base of all corporate groupware messaging products. Even in the growing hosted messaging services market, Exchange Server maintains a significant presence.

Ultimately, choosing a messaging server solution for an enterprise is about what tool is best for the job. Sometimes cost is the most important factor while other times the strengths of those who will be responsible for maintaining the tool may be the deciding factor. The answer may be different for different companies. Right now, there are no “Exchange killers”; however, there are some compelling Exchange competitors.