Using a pop-culture reference that dates me as the dinosaur I am, I once compared Microsoft's SharePoint to Shimmer Floor Wax, a "product" that was featured in a "Saturday Night Live" skit with (original cast!) Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner and Dan Akroyd. Shimmer was a floor wax and a dessert topping, and thus, like SharePoint, seemed to do it all.
But there's one area in which SharePoint hasn't shone all that brightly. As Computerworld reports, citing a recent IDC survey, just 8 percent of American companies use SharePoint for Web content management, vs. 36 percent that use it for internal portals and 51 percent that use it for collaborative team sites. Microsoft hopes to win some Web site love with two new versions of SharePoint 2010 announced at this week's user conference in Las Vegas.
Both the on-premise version and a software-as-a-service option hosted by Microsoft will cost half as much as current versions of SharePoint. And companies using either of the two Web-oriented versions won't need to buy costly Client Access Licenses (CALs) for internal employees who manage or update SharePoint-based Web sites. That's a step in the right direction as "the pricing was nuts" for similar versions of SharePoint 2007, says Alan Pelz-Sharpe, a CMS Watch analyst.
Microsoft is also promoting FAST Search for Internet Business, which is already used at BestBuy.com, Dell.com, NewYorkTimes.com and others, as a natural match for SharePoint sites, as I wrote earlier this year.
Although CMS Watch's Pelz-Sharpe welcomes the improvements, he says they won't put SharePoint in the same league as more robust Web content management systems like those sold by Interwoven, Vignette and Day. Kirk Koenigsbauer, general manager for the Microsoft Office Business Platform, says a more logical audience for SharePoint are companies with Web sites in need of serious updates, such as those that are still entirely in HTML, "not personalized, dynamic or even database-driven."
Yet Microsoft will face competition from companies that offer free open source or SaaS Web content management tools. Koenigsbauer counters by saying SharePoint is less expensive than using and integrating multiple applications.