Microsoft Exchange available for rent

Microsoft bets that renting is the next big software trend

Microsoft is to offer Microsoft Exchange for rent over the Net the company announced Wednesday.

Microsoft has been trialling a rentable version of Microsoft Office since November. Exchange will be trialled by twenty partners, including Hewlett-Packard and BT. The services -- offered via ASPs (Application Service Providers) -- is set to revolutionise the software market, according to Microsoft.

"There will be many more of them [ASPs]. It is a very big opportunity. Renting software is the next big trend," said Jeremy Gittins, Microsoft's group marketing manager. Rentable software is a growing phenomenon. In September Sun offered its own version of Office -- dubbed StarOffice -- downloadable free over the Net. According to Sun CEO Scott McNealy, over a quarter of a million people downloaded the software within the first week.

Gittins denies that Microsoft has gone down the rentable path as a result of the popularity of StarOffice. "People would say this is a reaction to StarOffice but we have been looking into the ASP model for three years now," he said.

Initially Gittins predicts the rentable model will appeal to small to medium-sized businesses rather than large companies.

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