HOSTSEARCH: Mr. van Dijken - welcome and thank you for this opportunity to talk to you. Before we begin in earnest, perhaps you could give us some details about your position within Microsoft and what your role entails.
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Thank you. It' always great to speak with Host Search. I am primarily responsible for marketing communications for our hosting business at Microsoft. Whenever you see us at a trade show or read in the media about what we'e doing in the hosting industry, I was probably involved.
HOSTSEARCH: We spoke to John Zanni, Director of Hosting for the Communications Sector at Microsoft in July of this year, and he gave us a potted history of Microsoft' involvement in the Web hosting industry. I wonder if you could give us an update of what' been happening since then.
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: We continue to focus our efforts on helping service providers in two critical aspects of the increasingly competitive hosting market: reduce operating costs and create service differentiation. As part of those efforts we'e introduced several new solutions and programs over the past several months.
In November, Microsoft introduced Windows SharePoint Services v3.0, the platform on which Office Live is built. Windows SharePoint Services provides a highly flexible and customizable platform on which hosting providers can easily and cost-effectively introduce a wide array of value-added applications and services.
We also announced two programs aimed at helping to spur the creation of SaaS-enabled applications: the Microsoft SaaS On Ramp Program and Microsoft SaaS Incubation Centers. The On Ramp Program provides ISVs with discounted software infrastructure and technical resources to help develop and deploy software as a service (SaaS) applications. The Incubation Centers will focus on establishing a number of facilities, run by expert Microsoft partners, where ISVs are guided through a structured series of business and architectural consulting sessions to ensure their business model and applications are ready for the challenges of service-based delivery. The Incubation Centers have been announced in EMEA with roll-outs in additional regions occurring in the near future.
HOSTSEARCH: For some time now Microsoft has been making major inroads into providing for the Web hosting industry, very much shaping the technology Web hosts are using, and even initiating things like the Microsoft Gold certified partner scheme. Seeing as you cater to the Web hosting industry, what' Microsoft' rationale behind Office Live?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: By some estimates, as many as 60 percent of all small and medium businesses have no online presence. Our aim is to help demonstrate to that presently nascent market the tools that are available to help them run their businesses better. We expect the old adage - rising tides lift all boats to apply in this situation. And while there will certainly be competition between Office Live and our existing hosting partners, as evidenced by solutions such as Windows SharePoint Services and our ISV-enablement programs, hosters are, and will continue to be, a critical channel for Microsoft solutions.
HOSTSEARCH: There was a bit of talk in the press recently about Microsoft becoming ICANN registered. There was some speculation that this was designed to strengthen your Office Live offering. Will you be offering domains through Live Office?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Becoming an ICANN-accredited registrar is just one of many ways we can improve our customers online and search experience. We work extensively with customers and partners to develop our Internet-based services.
We have no plans to become an active domain registrar at this time, but we do believe being accredited by ICANN will be helpful and educational for us as policies evolve and we introduce new and improved Internet-based services to our customers.
HOSTSEARCH: Surely, even for a company as broad as Microsoft, supporting Web hosting and becoming a potential competitor at the same time sends a mixed signal to the industry? To what extent does Office Live represent a change in policy as far as Microsoft' commitment to hosting is concerned?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: More than 90 percent of Microsoft' revenues come through the channel. We have an ecosystem of tens of thousands of partners and .Net developers worldwide. Microsoft' strength has always been as an enabler. That is not likely to change anytime soon. The key for hosting providers, as it has always been for partners of Microsoft, is to be creative in how they leverage the platforms and tools that Microsoft provides.
HOSTSEARCH: It must be said that alongside Office Live, Microsoft has in recent months been involved in some major developments that will provide direct benefits to Web hosts - Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 for instance you mentioned. For people who might not be familiar with this initiative, I wonder whether you could talk us through it.
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: Windows SharePoint Service v3.0 is a Web-based application development platform which empowers hosters to quickly and cost-effectively roll out new services and hosted applications to their customers.
As small businesses strive to create deeper and more personal connections with their customers, applications such as blogs and wikis present new and exciting opportunities for hosters. With Windows SharePoint Services, creating and hosting these types of applications is quick and easy. SharePoint' history is in enabling collaboration and so offering document management and shared workspace services is inherent to the platform.
HOSTSEARCH: I understand SharePoint Services 3.0 will provide a number of application templates Web hosts can customize to easily establish new services. And you are working with a number of Web hosts on development. Perhaps you could talk us through this? When in fact is this likely to go online?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: The fantastic 40 templates (as they are affectionately known) will be posted as free downloads sometime early in 2007. More information about these can be found here.
For service providers, these templates will instantly give hosters the ability to sell hosted lightweight applications; for example project tracking, inventory tracking and HR tools. In addition, these templates can be customized or combined, serving as a core set of code from which hosters can develop new applications.
HOSTSEARCH: Working for a company like Microsoft must have its moments. Global company, global influence - Is it fun? What's the best thing about it?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: There is seldom a day that I don't look forward to coming to work. Microsoft is a dynamic company that operates in a number of fast-paced markets; the hosting industry is no exception. I've had the opportunity to establish relationships with many of the industry's leaders as we partner, debate and sometimes compete. This is extremely rewarding.
HOSTSEARCH: Are there any final words you would like to offer Web hosts, their customers, and the industry in general?
MICHAEL VAN DIJKEN: The industry is evolving. There is huge opportunity ahead as consumers and businesses embrace a world online. Find ways to differentiate and help your customers be more successful and you will win. Partnerships will be key, so choose wisely! Best of success in 2007.