Can Microsoft Keep SharePoint Rolling?

Its all-in-one approach to collaboration is winning over companies. But that can cause its own problems.
Microsoft's adapting SharePoint to the times. It introduced a Microsoft-hosted version of the software, called SharePoint Online, that companies including Coca-Cola Enterprises and Energizer have signed up for. Microsoft promises to have a true software-as-a-service, multitenant version soon.

Microsoft also promises to more deeply integrate SharePoint with Office and third-party applications. SharePoint 2007 introduced a business data catalog to bring data from business applications such as ERP into SharePoint; Teper says improving such integration is the biggest R&D expense for the software. The Duet team, an interoperability effort between Microsoft and SAP, is now part of the SharePoint group. Microsoft plans to add a high-end enterprise search capability from its acquisition of Fast Search & Transfer, but it doesn't offer a timeline.

Perhaps the biggest question is the role open standards will play in the competition in content management and social software. Rivals such as open source content management provider Alfresco now have access to Microsoft Office protocols, as required by European antitrust rulings, and they're using them to offer features such as team editing of Word documents using Alfresco. That could blunt one of Microsoft's great advantages, its tight integration with the Office suite.

In September, Microsoft joined EMC, IBM, Oracle, and others to collaborate on a content management data-sharing standard, Content Management Interoperability Services. That standard would let companies use SharePoint's user interface with EMC on the back end, or combine EMC and Microsoft content management systems, but it could decrease the need for a complete platform like SharePoint.

Illustration by Sek Leung

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SharePoint's Rivals Aren't Giving Ground