Ballmer Bullish on New Directions for SharePoint - InformationWeek

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Ballmer Bullish on New Directions for SharePoint

Microsoft's CEO talks up the collaboration software as a platform for customer-facing Web sites in an interview with InformationWeek.

Microsoft's CEO talks up the collaboration software as a platform for customer-facing Web sites in an interview with InformationWeek.At the Microsoft SharePoint 2009 Conference in Las Vegas today, CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage to tout the forthcoming SharePoint 2010 release.

In his keynote, Ballmer touched on new directions for the popular collaboration software, including using the platform for customer-facing Web applications, and a stronger commitment to the cloud.

On the Internet front, Ballmer cited Kraft Foods and Volvo as two examples of companies using SharePoint as the front end for customer-facing sites. Ballmer says Kraft consolidated two hundred separate sites onto a single SharePoint front-end, saving the company $2 million a year.

Ballmer says SharePoint lets more business users in an organization publish content to the Web without having to involve IT. "Marketing, sales, customer service people desire to move things along quickly, and without necessarily on every transaction having IT involved. SharePoint is a great bridge for that," said Ballmer in an interview with InformationWeek.

When asked what SharePoint brings to the table that other Web development platforms don't, Ballmer responded "Well, you can do anything with anything. The question is, how much work is it? What we're trying to do is essentially give the people who build these sites a higher-level set of tools, so they're not reinventing the wheel. Can we provide infrastructure that ties in and lets the end user participate, and is done in a very high-quality, finished way for those folks? And we think the answer is yes."

Ballmer's keynote also discussed Microsoft's commitment to SharePoint in the cloud. The company already has more than one million users signed up for SharePoint Online, a hosted version of the software. SharePoint Online is available both as a multitenant deployment and on dedicated systems. SharePoint 2010 will offer more end-user features than the current hosted version.

Ballmer envisions companies mixing premises and hosted versions. For instance, SharePoint sites with sensitive business content can stay on premises, while a cloud version for general collaboration can live in the cloud.

The Microsoft CEO doesn't worry that online versions of the software will cannibalize premises license revenue. "I'm excited that we may be able to offer more value to our customers by offering software plus services in the cloud than we ever could have done on-premise," said Ballmer. "So, I think if we offer more value, we'll have opportunities to make more money. That's exciting, not something to be afraid of."

The SharePoint 2010 beta will be available in November. The full software release will arrive some time in the first half of next year.

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