Microsoft Tweaks SharePoint Functionality, Marketing Message

Ann All

By most accounts (including this one in the New York Times), Microsoft's SharePoint has been a wildly successful product for the software giant. As the article notes, while sales for the company's flagship Windows fell for the first time ever this year, SharePoint sales grew. The list of 17,000 SharePoint customers includes marquee names like Viacom and Starbucks.


Why then, is Microsoft apparently looking to tweak its marketing of the product with SharePoint 2010?


As Shawn Shell writes on Intelligent Enterprise, Microsoft has changed its "six pillars" of SharePoint, the words that are supposed to clue folks in to what the product is about. Many folks, including me, have often referred to SharePoint as collaboration software, in competition with the likes of IBM's Lotus. Yet collaboration is no longer one of the six pillars. What gives? Writes Shell:


... Collaboration, defined broadly, is both a strength and weakness of the current release. In the 2010 timeframe, Microsoft is using the term "communities." Clearly, Microsoft seems to want to present a stronger social media story, perhaps addressing the existing collaboration weaknesses (at least in terminology). ...


Still, collaboration apparently remains a SharePoint selling point, especially for the cloud-based version of the product. According to a WindowsITPro item, Microsoft's cloud-based Business Productivity Online Suite offers the ability to create "a complete hosted messaging and collaborations solution," with the inclusion of Office Live Meeting, Office Communications Online, Exchange and SharePoint.


Other key changes to the six pillars, writes Shell, are Microsoft's elimination of "portal" and addition of "insights." The use of insights points the way toward improved business intelligence capabilities, which have been a shortcoming of SharePoint. Microsoft's BI strategy is largely based around PerformancePoint Server, which offers users access to data from within Word, Excel and Office and (coming soon) SharePoint.


A big part of the SharePoint story is its integration capabilities, as IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson wrote last month. Those capabilities make some folks very happy and others very nervous. In the nervous camp is Matt Asay, VP of business development for Alfresco and author of The Open Road blog on CNET. He tells the New York Times that SharePoint will help preserve Microsoft's Office business and "pave(s) the way for a new era of Microsoft lock-in."


The Times article also mentions that the next iteration of SharePoint will include more robust search functionality, thanks to the technology Microsoft bought from Norway's Fast Search and Transfer, news I wrote about back in February. (I'd say it's no coincidence that "search" is another of the six pillars.)

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 17, 2011 2:45 AM Mike Kemp Mike Kemp  says:

As a software giant, I guess Microsoft has to keep on reinventing itself in order to keep up with its rivals, and probably the shift in marketing and advertising perspective is part of its overall plan to reach out to more customers for its products by touting features that might seemingly make it popular and attractive to potential customers while retaining the loyalty of the old. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft attempts to or whether it does stretch the integration of its products beyond the current and into the mobile platform.


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