Third Parties to Determine Whether SharePoint Could Be the Next Lotus Notes

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Is a healthy cash cow for Microsoft and its channel partners.


Is a technical and operational morass, as repositories proliferate, and IT comes to recognize that various custom applications require highly specialized expertise to keep running properly.


Pretty much delivers on all of those promises Microsoft is making about it allowing us to work, and share content and become a "people-ready business."


Is on a billion-dollar juggernaut to potentially become the next must-have technology...


Is the next Lotus Notes?


Isn't that just the way. SharePoint Server has been receiving enthusiastic raves that other Microsoft products just don't get and selling at a rate that may put it over $1 billion for 2008. But after a CMS Watch study of the strengths and weaknesses of Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, the attention almost invariably ends on a comparison to Lotus Notes, the other (competing) brainchild of Ray Ozzie.


Lotus Notes is still popular with developers and IT, but detested by users. Termed groupware, back before community was everything, it made the client-back-end connection, but not the user connection. My side trip into just how much Lotus Notes sucks was a laugh riot, but only because I've never had to use it. It's gotten better, I understand, but the reputation remains.


Where e-mail within Notes became the unwieldy but necessary (according to the users, despite the developers' desire to make them stop using it) application that made users resistant to the whole platform, Microsoft's weakness in social networking shows through in SharePoint, along with scalability problems. A February report from collaboration consultant Michael Sampson concluded that clumsy integration with Exchange and Outlook would hold back users.


This CRN piece includes several opposing viewpoints. Especially note this from Tom Rizzo, director for SharePoint, who responded, "Actually, you'll find that people in the industry, along with our 17,000 customers, are in agreement that Microsoft Office SharePoint Server has taken off like wildfire, not only because it's easy to use, but because our customers are finding value in it." It's a pretty simple statement, but that ease of use and comfort level for end users is key. And it's not something that Microsoft product teams always keep a top priority.


The growing pains of scalability issues are not surprising, given the rate of adoption in enterprises, and I am certainly no technologist, but if you're wondering if the fate of SharePoint is to be either the most successful Microsoft product or the next Lotus Notes, keep an eye on the user experience, especially when held up side-by-side with flashy social networking apps outside the Microsoft world, which could make the call. Says Forrester's Oliver Young in the TamilStar SharePoint piece: "Compared to what is out there today, Microsoft's Web 2.0 tools look old and very static and are clunky and difficult to use."


And it seems that the improvements that are needed in that user experience are coming from third party add-ons created with Microsoft APIs. Stay tuned.