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Is Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Right For SMBs?

A local Boy Scout chapter found that Microsoft's workflow software, while most often used by large enterprises, was the most efficient way to roll out its collaborative website.

Microsoft Office 2010 In Pictures
(click image to view slideshow)
Slideshow: Microsoft Office 2010 In Pictures

The in-house solution involves higher setup and licensing costs, but it paves the way for external as well as internal use. SharePoint Foundation 2010, a free version of the software, only works with internal portals and collaboration services, and requires a licensed copy of Microsoft Windows Server (pricing starts at $1,029, including five user licenses). Having an external-facing website requires a licensed copy of SharePoint Server 2010 plus standard client access licenses.

As the Boy Scouts example demonstrates, selecting SharePoint doesn't mean that you have to keep a SharePoint expert on the payroll. However, in that case you'll become dependent upon an external service provider.

Microsoft provided a few illustrative statistics about the SharePoint ecosystem:

-- There are over 300 independent software vendors (ISVs) building and testing SharePoint 2010 solutions today and that number is expected to double over the lifetime of the 2010 release.

-- Over 500,000 software developers have done at least one development project using SharePoint in the last 6 months.

-- The SharePoint services opportunity for Microsoft partners and developers is $5.6 billion today and will grow to over $6.7 billion in FY12.

That is to say, there's money to be made in SharePoint. This means that the availability of programming talent to keep your organization moving along should not be a problem.

Yet the Boy Scouts example highlights how the industry dynamics may unfold.

The merger between IT services provider Quilogy and unified communications specialist Aspect demonstrates the value to Microsoft partner ISVs in providing a full-service play across Microsoft's offerings. Unified communications is no longer a separate offering that works independently from office productivity software and internal/external collaboration tools, such as Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, respectively. Instead, unified communications is baked into the entire Microsoft stack.

Naturally, the Microsoft development community would be among the first to realize this, and it appears that the smart ones are getting ready for the new level of competition in enterprise software by broadening their scopes. One example does not a trend make, but the logic behind the merger is sound, and we can certainly expect similar deals to surface.

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