SharePoint, according to Microsoft senior director of SharePoint product marketing Jared Spataro, is not a product; it’s a lifestyle. This is what he proclaimed at Microsoft’s SharePoint Conference this week here in Las Vegas.
While that may be an overstatement, SharePoint clearly has evolved from a document-management and collaboration tool into a broad business productivity platform. And that’s the ace in the hole Microsoft was holding as the industry wrung its hands about the company being late to the cloud and the device game. By having a platform that allows device owners to complete tasks, weigh in on projects and so much more, Microsoft’s Surface and Windows Phone systems will quickly grab big market share from Apple and Google—provided Microsoft can now deliver on the hardware as well as it delivered on the software.
Monday’s keynote demonstrated an awful lot of work that gets Microsoft and its users closer to its vision of the future workplace, located at the convergence of workplace collaboration, document management and social networking, available on any device, and optimally rendered for that device.
You can read my blog for many of the keynote’s details, but there are a couple of things worth exploring in greater depth here. First, with its demonstrations of software that either actually is available now or will be by the first half of next year, Microsoft is regaining some market momentum, and—judging by reactions—the company’s message is resonating with the faithful. Too often during the process of getting to this point, Microsoft took missteps by not being transparent enough with what it was doing, or was thought to be promising more than it could deliver. This clearly is no longer the case. Microsoft has delivered, and in a big way. With SharePoint as the base platform, Microsoft is putting an entire social network—Yammer—on top of it. Integrations with Project (for task and portfolio management) and Dynamics (for CRM) make the story compelling. On top of that, Microsoft has followed through on its embrace of open standards, enabling developers to write apps in multiple languages that can call into services on multiple clouds. Who’d have thought that a few years back?
The second aspect (a new application development model) has created somewhat of a rift among developers, though. In the new Cloud App Model, no code runs on an on-premise server, effectively decoupling the logic from the platform. This means either the platform or the app can be updated without breaking the other, so long as the APIs aren’t changed. This is clearly where Microsoft wants developers to go. But on the other hand, Microsoft still will enable the option of “full trust” computing, which means any application can be downloaded onto the server by a developer or a business user so long as they check “yes” in the popup box of trust. Yes, this can be controlled in IT by turning off the capability, but not in the cloud. So, there is a risk that poor or even malicious code can be brought into the environment. One person tweeted at the keynote: “Developers developing directly to production? At least 2 of my infrastructure/platform team will need therapy.”
The changes Microsoft has shown here at SPC12 are exciting, perhaps even game-changing for how businesses will work in the future. Caution must be taken to fully shake out the features and flaws before diving headlong into the unknown.