With all of the great new features planned for Microsoft SharePoint 2010 announced yesterday at the SharePoint user conference in Las Vegas, the legions of SharePoint users are bound to be pretty excited.
But are there legions of users? No one seems to know for sure.
Like most publications, including The New York Times, we've reported that SharePoint is Microsoft's fastest-growing product ever. How could it not be with numbers like these? From a Computerworld article: SharePoint grew from 75 million licensed users in 2006 to 85 million in 2007, generating revenue of $800 million. In 2008 there were 100 million-plus users, with revenue of more than $1 billion. Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for SharePoint, said the product is on track for $1.3 billion in revenue this year, a solid performance in any year but especially impressive considering how many companies sliced their IT spending. Teper didn't give a user count, but said year-on-year license numbers grew "roughly in relation to our revenue."
Yet some industry analysts believe many SharePoint licenses go unused. SharePoint sales have benefited from Microsoft's fondness for bundling its products, a practice that has gotten it into hot water numerous times. SharePoint's Client Access License (CAL) is bundled into Microsoft's Core CAL suite, which also includes CALs for Windows and Exchange and System Center Configuration Manager. So, says Paul DeGroot of Directions on Microsoft, "Many people were getting the Core CAL, and almost accidentally getting SharePoint CALs."
When Microsoft announced its 2008 usage and revenue numbers for SharePoint, consultant Michael Sampson wrote a blog post in which he urged Microsoft to use "real market numbers." Rather than the 100 million-plus SharePoint users Microsoft reported then, Sampson estimated the actual number was 5 million to 10 million.
The two drivers for SharePoint's growth, wrote Sampson, were the bundling of SharePoint licenses into the Core CAL and Microsoft encouraging software use under the radar of IT, a tactic also employed by Google. According to a recent IDC poll, an average of 22 percent of corporate employees actively use SharePoint.
Teper disagrees with these numbers, saying that the majority of companies that have licensed SharePoint "are using it broadly."
Usage numbers aside, both DeGroot and Sampson don't deny SharePoint's popularity and market impact. Says DeGroot:
Microsoft may oversell its success, but that should be considered normal corporate behavior, and there is some fire underneath the smoke.