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Q&A: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer On Sharepoint 2010

The Microsoft CEO lays out the company's Internet-facing strategy for its enterprise collaboration tool, SharePoint 2010.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at the company's 2009 SharePoint conference in Las Vegas to talk up new directions and new features of SharePoint 2010, including more opportunities for end users to develop applications in SharePoint, the use of SharePoint as a customer-facing Web front end, and a continued push to deliver SharePoint as a service.

SharePoint 2010 will go into beta in November. The production version is expected to hit the market in the first half of next year.

After his keynote, Ballmer spoke with InformationWeek by phone.

InformationWeek: Why is the company taking SharePoint 2010 down the path of an Internet-facing Web publishing platform?

Steve Ballmer: Well, we have a lot of interest from customers in going down that path. It turns out that for many Internet-facing Web sites, not all of them, but for many Internet-facing Web sites, and not even for all capabilities on all of them, we see a lot of interest in customers in having a very rapid application, agile, collaborative-style platform that lets them connect people and information. And SharePoint, in a sense then, is as well situated for those kinds of Internet-facing Web sites as it is for the intranet world.

InformationWeek: Are there specific kinds of Internet sites you see as ideal for SharePoint as a platform?

Steve Ballmer: Any application in which things are going to be pretty dynamic, where there's going to be a need in a lightweight way to change the workflows and the applications in which end users -- think marketers or customer support people as a good example -- are going to be a regular part of the publishing environment. I think SharePoint has a real role to play as a standardized infrastructure to go get that done.

If you're saying, would you build the next generation backend store for a retailer on SharePoint, you might put SharePoint on the front end, the backend undoubtedly will be built on hopefully Windows Servers, or some competing operating system, and SQL Server, or some competing database. But, the actual front end and the presentation environment, the collaboration environment, and the publishing environment for the marketing, sales, and merchandising people, SharePoint does a very good job for those functions.

InformationWeek: So, it's an opportunity for marketing, sales, and others to get more of a hand in actually publishing to the Web.

Steve Ballmer: Yes, to get that in a way I mean, in a sense it's a great bridge. IT staffers have a bit of a desire to be in the middle of the picture and provide a level of information security and governance and control, and end users -- marketing, sales, customer service people -- desire to move things along quickly, and without necessarily on every transaction having IT involved. And SharePoint is a great bridge for that.

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