SharePoint is Going Away

A full week has passed since I returned from Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Los Angeles.  It was a great event, during which I had many, many interesting and productive conversations.  I spent last week digging out of the email and related work that had piled up while I was in L.A.  As the days continue to tick , I’m realizing that I probably won’t have time to write as many blog posts about the event as I’d hoped.  But there’s one important observation I feel compelled to broadcast before I get back to business.  This statement is based on what I heard and what I saw from Microsoft at the conference.  I’ve shared this observation with other attendees who agree with my assessment.  Here it is, as simply and plainly as I can say it: SharePoint is going away

I understand that may be shocking and hard to accept.  We’ve heard previously that SharePoint has been Microsoft’s fastest growing server product in history.  SharePoint was a billion dollar line of business for Microsoft in 2008.  We heard in L.A. that SharePoint now accounts for $2 billion in revenue.  If you read Microsoft’s earnings announcement last week closely, you know that Microsoft’s Business Division grew revenue nearly 21% over the last two quarters.  At the center of that growth is SharePoint.  So how and why is SharePoint going away?

Well, first let me tell you how I arrived at this statement.

The expo center at the WPC was a massive room filled with booths and exhibits from ISVs and Microsoft.  It’s a gigantic, cavernous space and frankly it required a significant physical effort just to walk the whole room.  I was pretty lost initially and had to consult a floor plan for the event before I began to understand how to navigate the space.  Basically, Microsoft booths ringed the perimeter of the floor, with partner booths occupying the center of the circle.  As you walked around the Microsoft displays, you encountered a booth for virtually every Microsoft product.  There was a station for Xbox, Kinect, Windows, Office, Windows Phone, etc.    It was easily a half mile walk to tour the complete family of Microsoft products.  I made that full tour several times over the course of the week.  By the second day, I realized there weren’t very many signs for SharePoint.  In fact, I only counted one, and it was a small sign hidden amongst many others in the Office section.  SharePoint as a brand was definitely de-emphasized Microsoft at the WPC. 

There were a few more instances of the word SharePoint among the partner exhibits, but damn few.  Only a year ago, it seemed like every ISV offering was some awkward wordplay with SharePoint, like ControlPoint, DeliverPoint, Bamboo’s own MashPoint, etc. ad nauseum.  The ISVs who brought BLANK+Point to the WPC this year must have felt like they didn’t get the memo.

What is the dominant brand in Microsoft’s Business Division going forward?  It’s Office 365.  It’s all about Office in “the Cloud.” 

I’ve seen this coming.  I’ve been telling people for some time now that Office 365 is going to be the big winner in the Cloud era.  Even I didn’t realize it was going to happen this quickly though. 

It’s an amazing feat, and even more so when you think about where Microsoft was just five years ago.  They were in a bad place.  Having lost the battle for the consumer Internet to companies like AOL and Yahoo, Microsoft slept while Google monopolized Search.  Microsoft slept on Web 2.0, abdicating huge new empires to Facebook and Twitter.  The only cards they had left to play were these big clunky desktop applications called Office.  With the Cloud approaching and the social revolution in full swing, Microsoft was in a tight spot.  Since that time, Microsoft quietly built up SharePoint to the point that it was a credible platform for enterprise collaboration.  They’ll use that franchise as a vehicle for moving Office to the Cloud.  It’s an amazing act of will and leadership for a company the size of Microsoft to have pulled off this transformation.  I think you have to give Ballmer and his team a lot of credit.

“OK,” you say, “SharePoint is being de-emphasized as a brand relative to Office 365.  But does that mean that SharePoint as a product and a technology are going away?”  Well, the answer is yes and no.

I believe that SharePoint will be increasingly less important as a standalone experience.  And that’s how it should be, because SharePoint as an independent experience, separate from Office, doesn’t make a lot of sense.  People don’t collaborate independently of writing Word documents, making Excel spreadsheets, and managing projects; people collaborate while they do these things.  Microsoft should have thought about socially enabling Office rather than building SharePoint as a platform.  But ultimately they got to the same place, so I guess it doesn’t matter.  More and more, SharePoint will become the connective tissue between applications.  Information workers will take features like forums, document libraries, team sites, micro-blogging and user profiles for granted.  Maybe SharePoint will persist as a brand that contains this functionality, maybe it won’t.  But it certainly won’t be marketed and sold the same way.

What are the implications for me, you, and the rest of the world?

Me first.  I just changed Bamboo’s marketing tagline from “Essentials for SharePoint” to “Collaborative Solutions for SharePoint.”   The point there was to emphasize Bamboo’s increased focus on solutions and applications versus Web Parts and tools.  I’m ready to change it again.  Bamboo doesn’t make solutions and applications for SharePoint, we make them for the Microsoft stack, which is now centered around SharePoint.  To me, this is clarifying and opens up zillions of new opportunities for Bamboo.  Imagine Bamboo Web Parts that fix feature gaps in Word or Excel.  Imagine Bamboo-powered solutions that leverage capabilities of Lync and Visio.  We have the technology already, the only hard part is picking which one to do first.  It greatly expands our addressable market, and the number of product opportunities in front of us.

For you.  Frankly, your whole existence is changing so fast, you’re unlikely to care about this issue.  Your PC is about to be obsoleted a tablet.  You won’t use software that’s pre-installed on your machine, you’ll access it over the Web.  The line between phone and computer is already so blurry it’s hard to make a distinction.  You’re so exhausted keeping up with your presence on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that you’re ready to move to a cabin in Montana.  Don’t sweat the little things, whether it’s called SharePoint or not, everything you’ve learned over the past few years will still be useful.

For the rest of the world.  It’s going to be very interesting.  Will there still be SharePoint Saturdays?  Will there still be SharePoint MVPs?  Will there be a Microsoft SharePoint Conference after 2011?  The answer to each of these questions is quite possibly “No.”  There is an incredibly vibrant community around SharePoint.  Will it survive as the Office 365 community?  I don’t know, it’s hard to imagine. 

No matter what happens, I can assure you that Bamboo is going to be around and will likely flourish in the new world.  Technologies like Cloud Parts will allow us to extend the functionality of not just SharePoint, but the entire Office experience.  You may purchase these products as Apps on the Office 365 Marketplace, or maybe you’ll continue to buy directly from Bamboo.  But we’ll be there. 

OK, I’ve reached the end of what will probably be my last blog from WPC 2011.  If I had time, I would probably write up a post’s worth of praise for Bing.  I had a great conversation with Elizabeth Parker from the Microsoft Advertising group at the show.  As a product, Bing continues to innovate.  As a vendor, Bing is working hard to earn and win my business away from Google.  I’m really impressed with that team.

Finally, make sure you didn’t miss my best post from WPC 2011, the story of how SharePint made country singer LeAnn Rimes hate me


EricJ
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Wed, Jul 27 2011 11:19 AM

Back when Vista was still “Longhorn” it was supposed to contain a new File System that sounded a lot like SharePoint for the Desktop. Files were to be stored in a database, with easily extensible metadata. This still hasn’t appeared, and I don’t think it’s going to be in Windows 8 – but if we do get SharePoint absorbed into the OS + SharePoint handling your files in the Cloud, then yes, SharePoint sitting on an office server goes away – which probably means SharePoint as a platform goes away. Interesting.

WonderLaura
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Thu, Jul 28 2011 10:56 PM

I think this article is really getting a lot of people fired up and upset, which seems to me to be the sole intention.  SharePoint is just not the newest thing right now, so they’re not promoting the heck out of it.  I doubt that means that it’s necessarily going away!  Think about it, Excel is awesome and thousands, maybe millions of people use it every day, but you didn’t see any giant “Excel 2010” signs at WPC, did you?  

Yes, I agree that Office 365 is huge and the cloud is the big thing right now, and I love Office 365 the way, but I’m not too worried.  Hey everybody, chill out.

DougHemminger
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Thu, Jul 28 2011 10:56 PM

I don’t quite understand your logic. Because there weren’t many SharePoint signs at WPC, SharePoint is going away? That seems to be the foundation of your logic.

DougHemminger
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Thu, Jul 28 2011 11:20 PM

I decided I will give this article a little more of my time since a lot of people seem to be reading it. Maybe they will read this comment and consider it as well.

SharePoint is a product offering that comprises millions (I am admittedly making an educated guess here) of lines of code with pre-built feature sets for web-based functionality that encompass a broad range of business needs. Until BPOS and Office365 those feature sets were generally available only as an in-house server solution. These feature sets…the millions of lines of code…the real asset…are not going away. If anything, they are just relocating from the in-house server solution to a hosted server solution. The hardware is changing. The software isn’t. substantially changing.

SharePoint is a software solution The cloud is a hardware solution. Office365 is a hardware solution with some software thrown in to entice you (including SharePoint),

I really don’t understand your basis for SharePoint going away. Because we are moving it to different hardware (i.e., Office365)?

Patman2520
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Fri, Jul 29 2011 4:07 AM

Steve,

I am wondering, did you see any Exchange booths? Or large Lync booths? I’m asking because I wasn’t at the WPC11.

I do agree that SharePoint will ‘transform’ to a more cloud based service just like Exchange and Lync and some ‘side products’ like Office. Office365 is very powerful (as a product but also as marketing budget).

However, like you describe SharePoint, I would like to emphasize that SharePoint is a lot more then just collaboration on documents…

Steve Gaitten
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Fri, Jul 29 2011 2:16 PM

@WonderLaura @Patman2520 Actually, yes, I did see much more visible booths and promotion for Exchange, Excel and especially Lync.  That’s exactly the reason it was so striking to me.  But don’t take my word for it, here’s a link to an interactive display of the showroom floor on the WPC 2011 site. (http://bit.ly/pereiE)  Surface, Windows Phone, even Windows Embedded had bigger, standalone displays.

Even so, I acknowledge that a smallish presence for SharePoint at a single trade show is a long way from proof that “SharePoint is Going Away”.  For me, that isn’t evidence so much as how I started thinking about it.  In my mind, there is a lot of other evidence, and it makes sense on a number of levels.

If SharePoint was going to be a key brand long term, shouldn’t BPOS have been SharePoint Online?  Business Productivity Online Services always felt like a cold placeholder to me.  Turns out it was.  Office 365 is the successor.

Who is Microsoft competing with via SharePoint?  “Almost no one” is the right answer.  But if you had to pick anyone, it’s Google Apps.  Remember the shortlived drama when everyone said that Google Wave was a SharePoint Killer? (btw, I predicted Google Wave’s significance pretty well back then too.  http://bit.ly/z1Qyp)  Office 365 vs. Google Apps is about much more than SharePoint… it’s mostly about the applications.  The collaborative features of SharePoint are table stakes at this point.

Steven Fowler
wrote
re: SharePoint is Going Away
on Sat, Jul 30 2011 9:21 AM

Steve,

My assessment is that there is a convergence of various technological advances that are going to change how organizations approach portal, ECM, and BPM which are the mainstay for SharePoint.

Yes, there will be some on premise or managed service versions of SharePoint that will remain for years to come, but there is now a new opportunity for some of those individuals to move to the cloud. There are so those that could not even choose WSS/Foundation as an option that will go with Office 365

We’ve shifted our organization http://www.ataric.com to support Microsoft’s cloud computing vision. We have also formed a community around supporting Office 365 www.office365saturday.org

SharePoint Stories
wrote
It’s hard to imagine how SharePoint goes away
on Sat, Jul 30 2011 11:52 PM

Is SharePoint going away? I do think this question must be title of this post ( SharePoint is Going Away

SharePoint Experts
wrote
SharePoint is going away
on Wed, May 2 2012 11:10 AM

Interesting commentary. Maybe I should change my blog name. 🙂 community.bamboosolutions.com/blogs

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