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Can Microsoft turn SharePoint into a Web contender?

Hopes SharePoint 2010 can finally make headway against rivals

By Eric Lai
October 19, 2009 12:01 PM ET

Computerworld - Microsoft Corp. plans to bolster SharePoint's Internet capabilities in the hopes of penetrating a Web content management market that it has, so far, been largely locked out of.

Microsoft is also creating two new versions of SharePoint 2010 aimed at Webmasters. These new offerings -- one, an on-premises server for small to medium-sized companies, the other, a Web version hosted in Microsoft's data centers -- will cost half the price of existing versions, according to Kirk Koenigsbauer, general manager for the Microsoft Office Business Platform. He declined to release exact prices.

Moreover, companies using either of these Web-oriented versions of SharePoint won't need to buy Client Access Licenses (CALs) for internal employees who manage or update SharePoint-based Web sites, said Koenigsbauer. The cost of SharePoint's CALs tends to greatly outweigh the cost of the SharePoint server license.

Wildly popular inside the corporate firewall for sharing files and for internal portals, SharePoint has made little headway as a back-end technology for Web sites or extranets.

According to an IDC survey in July of 262 American corporate IT users, just 8% of respondents said they were using SharePoint for their Web sites, compared to 36% using it for internal portals and 51% using it for collaborative team sites.

Slashing the price of SharePoint for the Web was an imperative, said Alan Pelz-Sharpe, an analyst with CMS Watch. Using SharePoint today for Web sites tends to be "shockingly expensive," he said. "The pricing was nuts. We've had customers tell us that they could have gone and bought Documentum for the price of [using SharePoint for the Web]."

There are other problems, according to IDC analyst Melissa Webster, including poor positioning of SharePoint for the Web, the fact that many Web sites are based on Java rather than Microsoft's .Net technology, and the number of small vendors offering cheap or free apps with capabilities that SharePoint can't match out-of-the-box.

Pelz-Sharpe is more succinct. "As a Web solution? It's pretty poor," he said. "SharePoint 2007 is a document management system that you can expose to the Web. It's not something we would recommend to a client."

Some sites use SharePoint

Granted, there are a number of Web sites already running today on SharePoint, some of them quite attractive and even flashy: HawaiianAir.com, Ferrari.com, Volvocars.com, the Chicago tourism site, ChooseChicago.com, and many others.

TopSharePoint.com has almost 600 examples.

The problem, said Michael Sampson, a New Zealand-based consultant and former analyst with Ferris Research, is that companies like Ferrari have "obviously spent carloads of money in order to make it [Ferrari.com] not look like SharePoint at all."



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