Over the summer the NY times blogged about strong SharePoint sales during the recession. SharePoint is already the biggest selling server product ever for Microsoft, it is no stretch to consider that it has the potential to one day become Microsoft’s next big operating system. Cloud operating system, that is.
The latest version of SharePoint arrives in late October, so this is a good time to speculate about the future. “SharePoint is saving Microsoft’s Office business even as it paves the way for a new era of Microsoft lock-in,” said Matt Asay, an executive at Alfresco, which makes an open-source content management system. “It is simultaneously the most interesting and dangerous Microsoft technology, and has largely caught its competitors napping… It’s a brilliant strategy that mimics open source in its viral, free distribution, but transcends open source in its ability to lock customers into a complete, not-free-at-all Microsoft stack – one for which they’ll pay more and more the deeper they get into SharePoint.”
I agree with Mr. Asay that customers will pay more and more, the deeper they get into SharePoint. Similarly, open source solutions are back loaded for consulting fees. Licensing costs are rarely the majority cost for a software project or solution.
Many people don’t realize that the free version of SharePoint is available to any company that already owns a Windows Server license. MS thinks of SharePoint as part of Windows, which justifies the “free” license for internal employees of a company that has already purchased Windows Server
When SharePoint 2007 was released it became clear that MS had also decided to make the full (and expensive) version of SharePoint part of the Office family, thus the name Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS). But now with the release of SharePoint 2010, things have changed. When MS announced the new version, they put it like this:
What happened to the Office piece of the name? We love MOSS. . . .
The first thing you’ll notice is that the MOSS acronym goes away with the new name since Office is no longer in the SharePoint official name. No one should worry that SharePoint doesn’t work great with Office 2010 since we removed Office from the name, just like people didn’t worry whether SharePoint was a great portal product when we removed Portal from the 2007 name.
I’m not convinced that it’s quite that simple. SharePoint could evolve in to a cloud hosted business operating system. By decoupling SharePoint from the Office suite, MS may be positioning it as a cloud based OS. Someday, MS might have to consider an advertisement supported version of SharePoint to compete with Google’s suite of online products.
Windows 7 may also become an important player in this transition. As noted here, Windows 7 will allow Microsoft to host your entire network experience, including Active Directory. More to the point: “Microsoft will actually be able to run your entire environment in their datacenter, yet let users securely connect to that environment from their own Windows machines.”