Old news department: Continued growth for SharePoint

A number of things passed me by this summer (yes, there was a reduced work schedule, a nice vacation — back at it now. Look for this blog to return to activity after a quiet summer).

One of the things I didn’t follow closely enough at the time was Microsoft’s earnings announcement at the end of its fiscal 2008.  Joe Wilcox at eWeek noted a 30% year-over-year growth in revenue associated with the SharePoint Server.  This isn’t in the filing, so must have been mentioned during the earnings call.  John Mancini picked this up but I didn’t find much else on it.  Then Stephan Elop, President of Microsoft’s Business Division, in a speech during a financial analyst meeting on July 24th cited fiscal year growth of 35% for SharePoint.

Microsoft claimed $800m in SharePoint revenue (in a press release) last year for fiscal 2007, so 30% growth puts 2008 revenue at $1.04 billion, 35% growth puts it at $1.08 billion.  The company also made a rather vague announcement in March the SharePoint Conference and via a press release that it had surpassed the $1 billion revenue mark.  At that point, we dug into it to find the $1 billion number was for the rolling twelve-month period.

The vagueness of the numbers is because of the difficulty of tracking individual product revenue, particulary when a product is tied to others in bundles.  Microsoft calculates SharePoint revenue by including revenue associated with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, the previous SharePoint Portal Server 2003 version, SharePoint Designer, Forms Server and SharePoint Search. SharePoint Server is sold individually and also as part of Microsoft’s Core client access license (CAL) and Enterprise CAL. So in the latter case, a share of the revenue from those bundles is associated with SharePoint.

All of this means the numbers are inexact to be sure and all licensed SharePoint seats (we haven’t seen an update on this number, from the 100 million claimed earlier this year) are not actively used.  But of course, the numbers are still indicative of SharePoint’s growing adoption, which few question. And many customers use the free SharePoint Services, which doesn’t directly show up in revenue numbers at all.

I suppose Microsoft didn’t make a big deal about it because the growth is in line with what it had already reported earlier in the year.  For others, the fact that SharePoint is a growing business for Microsoft isn’t exactly, uh, news.  Still, official news on SharePoint can be hard to come by so forgive the post if this is too old news, but I thought if I missed it, maybe others had too.

Alfresco plays Microsoft’s SharePoint game

Last week it was EMC’s Documentum group taking on SharePoint and this week it’s Alfresco, interesting not just because both Documentum and Alfresco were founded by the same person.  I had the chance to speak with that person, John Newton, this morning about Alfresco Labs 3.0 (Labs is the new name for Alfresco Community, which is the unsupported, uncertified version of Alfresco’s open source ECM software).

Alfresco has been positioning itself as the open source alternative to SharePoint for awhile and this announcement puts more wood behind that marketing arrow (Alfresco is undeniably good at marketing).

By working with the documented server protocols that Microsoft made available after its tangle with the EU, Alfresco built interoperability with the Microsoft Office desktop apps and with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server to make Alfresco a more viable replacement for SharePoint or to make it easier for the two to co-exist.  The most useful part of this will be the ability for end-users to work with an Alfresco repository via Office apps in the same way they work with SharePoint.

As is generally the case in ECM, SharePoint and Alfresco aren’t apples-to-apples in all senses and Alfresco isn’t necessarily attempting to replicate all the search, business intelligence and portal pieces of SharePoint just yet.  But this definitely provides an alternative for those organizations looking for basic content services a la SharePoint in a non-Microsoft or mixed server OS, database and browser environments.

EMC improves SharePoint strategy with CenterStage

EMC announced the upcoming beta availability of a new product today, Documentum CenterStage (formerly codenamed Magellan); our full write-up for 451 Group clients is here.  CenterStage appears to be aptly named, given the focus it is getting as part of the Documentum 6.5 announcement. CenterStage is part of the announcement, but not really the release.  Documentum 6.5 ships at the end of July and CenterStage Essentials goes into beta later this quarter.

But CenterStage is the most interesting part of the 6.5 announcement.  With CenterStage, EMC can finally articulate a more coherent competitive strategy against Microsoft SharePoint.  CenterStage by itself isn’t really competitive with SharePoint but it is the user-friendly front-end component the company has lacked.   Until now, there was an integration between Documentum and SharePoint.  Oh and there was eRoom, but EMC really hadn’t kept eRoom up with the times nor was it particularly well integrated with Documentum, making it difficult for the company to sell an ‘end-to-end’ story that was any better than using SharePoint along with Documentum.

So EMC is putting a lot of energy into CenterStage, it’s a big deal for EMC’s Documentum group.  Will it be a big deal outside of EMC and it’s established Documentum customer base?  Probably not intitially.  But I think a lot of people have been wondering if EMC/Documentum really would cede all the interface apps to Microsoft that easily and, eventually, inevitably, marginalize the Documentum group beyond repair.  At least now, it looks like EMC is in the fight.

Microsoft vs. IBM

The first tutorial this morning at The Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston was Social Computing Platforms: IBM and Microsoft. It was a duel of demos, not as open or back-and-forth a discussion as I’d hoped. But the general concession during the event and in the hallways afterwards was that Microsoft was showed up by IBM…thoroughly.

The Lotus demo was first. Lotus Connections is just coming out in version 2.0 and has a fairly complete set of capabilities for social networking, bookmarking, tagging, communities and blogging. The UI is clean and modern and the presenter, Suzanne Minnassian, did a great job sticking with her user scenario and showing how Connections can be used.

Then there was SharePoint. Microsoft SharePoint is of course lots of things – it’s a basic ECM product, it’s a portal and it has some nascent social computing features. But this demo was only to focus on those features, and they’re really not competition for Lotus Connections at this point. And just how nascent these features are was clearly evident this morning, in a demo that also included partner technologies and open source code. It was too technical and showed how difficult SharePoint can be to configure.

To be fair, comparing SharePoint and Connections is really not comparing apples to apples. SharePoint hasn’t reached the level of market penetration it has because of its social software features. Microsoft positions SharePoint as a platform and that partner technologies work better to customize it for specific verticals. There’s some truth to this, but the story will no doubt change as SharePoint gets more social in future releases.

I met with a Rob Curry, a product manager for SharePoint, this afternoon. He wouldn’t comment on specifics in the SharePoint road map but we can be pretty sure that the next version, expected as part of Office 14 late in 2009, will go much further down the social softwar path. In the meantime, SharePoint is still a juggernaut. Can IBM make some hay with its social software lead to stop that?

Social enterprise software isn’t an oxymoron — but it’s also not a market

Fred Wilson has an interesting post about whether or not there is an enterprise market for social software. He acknowledges that some products, particularly wikis, are doing well but questions the fundamental value of social software in enterprise communities that are “hobbled by the needs of the enterprise and cannot get that magical lift that an unbounded community provides.”

I think there are a couple of ways to look at this. Yes, on the public web, the “2.0” changes are pronounced due to the masses that can participate. Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn and even Google don’t make much sense without the explicit and implicit contributions of users and this has been a fundamental shift from Web 1.0. Everyone agrees on that point, I think.

But that doesn’t mean social technologies don’t have a role to play in enterprise apps as well. Is Enterprise 2.0 a market? Not really. That doesn’t mean I don’t use the phrase ‘social software market.’ But it’s a bit of a catch-all. There are business problems, processes, applications that can and will become more social, the way these apps look, feel and work is evolving. And there are new and old vendors that are enabling that change.

I think where this will the biggest impact in the enterprise is in outwardly facing initiatives – web sites that become more two-way, user communities, more self-service and open product development processes. This is the biggest fundamental shift from the way these sites, processes, apps worked in the past. And that’s probably why this part of the market is mostly populated by start-ups and smaller companies at the moment.

Inside-the-firewall social software is simply an evolution of existing collaboration technologies – some of the social software suites on the market really aren’t hugely different from team collaboration products from a decade ago. Yes, there are different features, yes there is open tagging as opposed to structured taxonomies, yes there is blogging and so forth. But in the grand scheme of things, new features don’t equal a revolution — or a market.

This explains why the vendors that are likely to equip the most enterprises with inside-the-firewall social software are the same vendors that have been selling collaboration software for ages: Microsoft and IBM. As SharePoint gets better social networking, improved wikis and blogs, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, improved RSS support in the next release, it will become the de facto “enterprise social software” tool for all those many organizations using SharePoint. IBM will stay in the fight with Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr, though it will likely be hard to stop the SharePoint juggernaut.

Recent ECM (and/or) SharePoint links

It’s been a long week in the Reidy household…coughing, pink eye…anyone with little kids knows the drill. I’m finally catching up on some feed reading and there’s been some interesting dialogue this week about SharePoint. Is it possible to post about content management or social software these days without involving SharePoint?