Microsoft Hosting Summit 2010 opens this week in Bellevue, Washington, at a critical time. The Redmond, Wash.-based software titan is trying to rally web hosts even as Microsoft continues to promote its own BPOS (Business Productivity Online Suite) SaaS platform to resellers. Here's a preview.

The conference’s agenda seems to mostly center around convincing the hosting industry to embrace Microsoft's flagship server applications: Typical sessions have names like “Hosted Exchange 2010: Partner Value” and “SharePoint 2010: Capturing the opportunity for collaboration with Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs).”

Microsoft Communications Sector Corporate VP Austen Mulinder will be on hand to welcome partners to the summit, and Bob Muglia, president of Microsoft Server and Tool Business will be there to lay out Microsoft’s cloud vision.

Breaking Away?

We hear a lengthy list of Microsoft partners -- from Citrix Systems to Intermedia -- will be on hand for the conference. But sources say several of the Web hosts on hand plan to hedge their Microsoft software bets in the months ahead.

Two prime examples:
  • At least three major web hosting providers plan to push beyond hosted Exchange to introduce Open-Xchange, an open source email system.
  • And Intermedia, a large hosted Exchange specialist, is preparing to launch a partner program for a new hosted unified communications platform, developed by Unison.
Still, it's hard to argue with Microsoft's popularity in the web hosting market. Many of the major providers are pushing beyond hosted Exchange and SharePoint to evaluate Microsoft's Communications Server. We'll be watching the summit for news and trends.

Additional reporting by Joe Panettieri. Sign up for MSPmentor’s weekly Enewsletter, Webcasts and Resource Center. And follow us via RSS; Facebook; Identi.ca; and Twitter. Plus, check out more MSP voices at www.MSPtweet.com.