SharePoint as an Operating System?

Via Designing for Dot Net, Don shows a few screen shots from some educational application written in WPF designed by “the UK educational team” (I’m not sure what that is). He mentions SharePoint several times, but I don’t see what SharePoint has to do with the application. It’s worth taking a look at his blog post to see the screen shots of the application. The source link that he provides requires registration to read the full content – I didn’t want to register to get more details.

What freaked me out most wasn’t the application or the mention of SharePoint. It was the comment at the end about him agreeing with the suggestion that SharePoint is the next big “operating system” from Microsoft.

That got me to Google in a flash. Not so amazingly, I found the reference right away from the industry pundit Mary-Jo Foley here. Mary says…

I think they’re asking the wrong question. Instead, why not ask whether Windows will be the center of Microsoft’s universe going forward? Might there some other product/products upon which Microsoft is betting the farm?

She goes on to say…

SharePoint Server is the answer. Not Windows. Not Windows Server. Not Office. SharePoint.

Ballmer told the Convergence questioner he was dead-on in his thinking.

“SharePoint is the definitive OS or platform for the middle tier,” Ballmer explained. It is the “missing link” (my words, not his) between personal productivity and line-of-business applications.

OK, Steve, it is a platform. Microsoft is betting big on it. Can it become the definitive development platform for Microsoft? This software architect and developer certainly hopes NOT. SharePoint may be good for some enterprises. However, the user experience, the IT experience, and the current licensing models (server + client access licenses for all users) make any massive adoption unlikely. The licensing however can’t change much — otherwise there’s little point in betting big on SharePoint unless they can continue to make a significant amount of revenue from the platform in some other way.

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I’m continually amazed by the number of ISVs founded entirely on the SharePoint platform. It’s amazing the traction it has gotten to date. I think the overall market is too large and too open for it to become the giant that is Exchange Server today. Microsoft needs ISVs to add value to SharePoint as Microsoft is only developing a platform.

Microsoft can’t bet everything on SharePoint. The company is too big for that. It can’t “be” the operating system (unless it starts to include a lot of extra moving parts stolen from Windows Server and SQL Server).

Regarding usability — a few interesting comments from NickMalik in his post “Ahead of the curve… again” if you can get beyond the nearly sickening “pro-SharePoint commentary in his original post. “The product is unstoppable.

What do you like/dislike about SharePoint? What do you use instead of SharePoint?

One Comment

  1. I don’t think it is appropriate to use the term “operating system” with respect to Sharepoint. It *is* appropriate to consider Sharepoint as a web application server. In that way, it is a platform, not an OS.

    Yes, it has some difficulties. Sharepoint waded into a wide-open area and began meeting needs that were not being well met by other tools. It is not difficult to install, and is very easy for small IT shops to set up, so folks adopted it.

    Big time.

    Usability for a general purpose tool is never easy, because there may be thousands of different ways that the tool can be used. For some folks, it will be harder to use than for others. Tradeoffs happen, usually in favor of the “most common” cases. But what are the most common cases?

    The problem, with any new product, is that the “most common” scenarios are not known. It was a gamble. Now, we *know* what we could only *guess* before, and those problems are being addressed.

    No product is perfect. It takes time.

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