News surfaced this week that Facebook was considering a move into the enterprise sector with the imaginatively titled 'Facebook at Work'. Not a great deal is known about the service yet, but pretty much everyone is in agreement that it could provide interesting competition to incumbents like Microsoft and even the likes of LinkedIn.
It has long struck me as surprising that LinkedIn hasn’t made a similar move. Back in 2011 Jeff Weiner, CEO of the company, suggested that enterprise social tools was "an area where we want to add value". Yet so far we’ve seen nothing particularly interesting.
The Microsoft partner network (MPN) is Microsoft’s ‘official’ body for channel partners. A Microsoft partner is one of the 640,000 companies worldwide that build, sell, or consult with Microsoft products. Most of these companies operate in the small-medium enterprise (SME) space, selling services related to Azure, .NET and SQL, Office 365, and SharePoint.
The MPN isn’t a revenue earner for Microsoft in itself, but the reason for its being is pretty clear. A successful partner ecosystem means lots of lovely license sales for Microsoft. With Office 365 subscriptions to push (and Windows likely following this model sooner rather than later) the MPN is a pretty important area for Redmond guys right now.
I’m a big fan of SharePoint. I’ve worked with it for years, right back to SharePoint 2001. It does a lot of things very very well (Since you ask -- document management, collaborative working, and increasingly social networking functionality). However, SharePoint also does lots of things, its feature set is simply huge. Not all of these features are as mature as others, and as a result it is easy for SharePoint systems to end up feeling a bit mixed and matched. Some things work well, some less so, and some should have been avoided altogether.
It is often as important to know what not to do with SharePoint, as it is to know what to do. So, with that in mind, here are 3 things you should avoid with SharePoint:
There is lots to like in SharePoint 2013 preview. The new interface stylings, whilst inconsistent in their current form, show some nice touches. The new social features are a big improvement on what went before. SkyDrive integration is potentially very useful, and adds to what was already a very solid document management offering. But my overall feeling: SharePoint 2013 is a missed opportunity.
The new social features don’t go far enough. Microsoft all but admitted this before the beta was released, by purchasing Yammer. They are now no doubt working hard trying to integrate it with the SharePoint code base. So presumably what we have now is "SharePoint Social 1.0", a stop gap at best?
Almost everyone who uses a computer or mobile device these days is familiar with apps and app stores. Back in the day, computers used to have "programs," and it was even once seen as fairly progressive to venture out onto the web and download something for yourself. No longer is this the case. Users are happy using app stores, and such mechanisms are almost expected on any new platform.
Microsoft was fairly slow to the app game. It never really had a successful phone platform with which to experiment in the way Apple did. Steps have now been taken in Redmond though, and the Windows 8 app store is expected to play a big role in the day to day use of the new operating system. SharePoint 2013, recently previewed by Microsoft and currently in the hands of excited enterprise testers the world over, now also has its own app store. However I can’t help but think, in its current guise, it is a missed opportunity.
One of the new features of Office 2010 (yep that’s 2010) was the Outlook Social Connector. This addon brought with it the ability to display social network information within Outlook itself. It took a little while for developers to get on board but last time I checked you could download "providers" to integrate Facebook, LinkedIn, Windows Live and Xing data.
Well, Office 2013 is now with us, and the social connector has been improved further. You no longer need to download a specific "provider" for Facebook or LinkedIn. Simply sign in with your existing credentials and Outlook 2013 will pull through the relevant data.
One of the areas of this week's Office 2013 launch that received slightly less attention as the updated Office Web Apps. These are the light weight web counterparts of the ‘full fat’ desktop applications, and are Microsoft's answer to Google Docs. Existing users of Skydrive, Office 365, or SharePoint 2010 will be familiar with them.
The apps received various updates, some major and many minor. Most obvious is the Metro look and feel, in line with everything else you have seen of Office 2013. Excel gains the ability to insert forms, PowerPoint sees its rendering engine markedly improved, and OneNote doesn’t seem to get anything other than a lick of paint. All in all its an incremental improvement, and certainly nothing to make happy Google Docs users sit up and take notice.
Yesterday Betanews published an interesting piece looking at how successful (or not) Windows 8 will be in the enterprise market. One of the areas it questioned was just how well the Metro UI would go down with end users in the workplace.
This reminded me of a concept that seems to have been much forgotten since we all fell in love with the touch screen. It is called Gorilla Arm. The term was coined over 30 years ago by engineers looking for a way to describe how users actually interact with vertical touchscreens in the real world. Basically users arms get sore and heavy when using these types of interface for extended periods of time. It is not a new phenomenon, far from it, and has been backed up by numerous interface and usability researchers for decades. Try it yourself now whilst sitting at your desk. Reach out and stab at your monitor. Then keep doing it. After a period of time your arms will feel like a gorilla's. So how is the Metro UI going to cut it with enterprise audiences?
Research in Motion is in trouble. Exactly how much trouble isn’t really clear right now, but things are looking bad.. Thorsten Heins, the current CEO, is keeping a positive outlook. He stated this week, in an interview with a Canadian radio station: "There’s nothing wrong with the company right now".
Pretty much everyone disagrees with this statement, including the stock market. At the time of writing the share price stands at under $8. This time last year it was $30. Go back to 2008 and the company was trading at $150 a share. RIM also recently announced 5,000 redundancies and losses of $518 million. Heins might say one thing publicly, but in private you can bet he is a worried man.
Second in a series. Editor's note: To commemorate iPhone's fifth-anniversary, we present several stories looking at its debut and colorful history -- so far. Who says you need the newest tech to be productive, eh?
As a writer and freelance IT contractor, I am in effect running my own business. I have multiple clients, assignments with deadlines, meetings with suppliers and contacts, and lots of marketing to arrange. Over the last few years I’ve noticed that I can manage all of these activities from my humble iPhone 3G. In effect I’m running my business from my phone, which is pretty amazing when you think that the original iPhone is only five years old today. In that short time the ‘God phone’, as some dubbed it at the time, has completely transformed what a phone can be.
So Microsoft went ahead and bought Yammer. Amongst the wider coverage were some interesting comments from Kurt Delbene, President of the Microsoft Office Division. In the official press conference he seemed to suggest that any future Yammer integration would be limited to cloud products:
"Yammer provides Microsoft best-in-class enterprise social networking service, as well as a phenomenal list of talented employees that know how to deliver rapid innovation in the cloud. Yammer will be an important addition to Microsoft's cloud services, and this acquisition underscores our commitment to helping customers move to the cloud."
Editor's Note: On June 25, Microsoft announced acquisition of four year-old, enterprise social-networking startup Yammer, for $1.2 billion. A day earlier, in the midst of rumors, Chris Wright put the merger in context, in this sharp and insightful analysis.
Recent press reports claim that Microsoft has bought Yammer, or that they are buying Yammer, or that they at least want to buy Yammer. The scenario currently playing out isn't entirely clear, although the New York Times seems confident the deal is done. In reality, we won’t know the exact nature of what is going on until any paperwork is complete.