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 by, 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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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.
Jul 26 2011, 01:30 PM
My name is Steve Gaitten, I am Director of Online Operations at Bamboo. My primary mission is to make Bamboo Nation the most useful SharePoint community site on the web. I am also focused on ensuring a world class shopping experience for customers who visit the Bamboo Solutions Online Store. Prior to Bamboo, I spent over a decade at America Online. At AOL my most recent roles included Director of Product Management in the Messaging & Social Media division as well as Managing Editor of AOL Money & Finance. I am a patented inventor, a bad golfer, an enthusiastic horticulturalist and a dog lover.