Posts tagged "sharepoint"

Sharepoint 2010 vs WCM Platforms

Sharepoint 2010 has just been released and everyone is excited about the possibilities and the unique advantage it can lend to their business. Specifically, there has been a lot of talk about Sharepoint’s new web content management capabilities. A lot of folks are wondering if they could possibly use the new Sharepoint release as the technology stack to maintain both their enterprise collaboration needs and their corporate website. In this article, we will review the new Sharepoint 2010 web content management capabilities and how they may fit your organization’s strategic website objectives at this time.

Sharepoint Capabilities

Let’s begin our discussions by reviewing, at a very high level, what specific business problems Sharepoint was meant to solve.

Microsoft designed Sharepoint as a collaboration platform to address specific business needs, such as – Collaboration, Secure Portals, Data Integration, Document Management, Records Management, Search & Discovery…

Further to this, the platform offers robust APIs, which allow extension of the base platform to third party solutions that address specific business needs for corporations in the mid to enterprise markets.

Sharepoint is generally viewed in the market as an ECM (Enterprise Content Management) platform with enriched web editing capabilities. It has inbuilt support for collaboration, back office integration, secure role based access, workflows & business process automation, document indexing, search & discovery capabilities. Most of all it offers some capacity for consistent branding and layouts across the organization.

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 Core Components

What’s New In Sharepoint 2010?

Sharepoint 2010 is being bundled with a lot of new features and capabilities. In this article we will focus on the capabilities that add value for an organization considering using Sharepoint 2010 for their web site. For the complete list of new capabilities please visit Microsoft’s Sharepoint portal site.

The Microsoft Sharepoint team has finally added the popular ribbon editing control to the platform. This makes content editing easy and more intuitive for end users. Sharepoint will also support inline editing with the new release. The AJAX enabled editing experience will be greatly enhancing the user experience on the Sharepoint platform.

Keeping in line with the growing need for well-structured taxonomy on a web site, Sharepoint 2010 now supports Managed Meta Data Services that allows creating & managing the Meta tags across multiple sites. Meta data tagged content can be further used to dynamically position content for the site audience, using the new Audience Object Model. Audience objects will allow us to target specific content to the target visitor segment thereby making their experience on your site more effective. We believe this is a great feature for content repurposing and will enhance usability experience, especially for e-Publication sites or resource section of any site.

A lot of organizations now manage multi-lingual content on their sites. This adds to complexity in business processes that struggle to maintain all sites up to date. Microsoft Sharepoint offers an elegant solution to the problem by introducing notification capabilities that tell you what has changed from the source page. This is done right in the AJAX ribbon control on the content page.

All content edited in the new Sharepoint HTML editor will be standard’s compliant and should greatly reduce the amount of effort required to enable viewing content across different browsers, operating systems and devices.

Inline with the regulatory and compliance needs, Sharepoint now offers reusable workflows. Choose between simple (serial) or sophisticated (parallel) workflows to suit your organizations content approval needs. Organizations can also build custom workflows, to suit their unique business needs, in Visio 2010 that can be imported into the Sharepoint Designer 2010. Using the new Visio Services, Sharepoint now offers workflow visualization allowing end users to visually track where they are in the workflow process. 

Sharepoint also offers inbuilt web analytics to understand how your website may be performing. It shows the regular KPIs (key performance indicators) for web site monitoring - like number of unique visitors, total traffic on site, top destinations on your site, top referrers, etc… The most exciting feature includes search insights – it allows for monitoring what visitors are searching on your site, what your top search queries are, which search queries are failing etc… the search insight can be used to fine tune the content, meta tags on your site to enhance user discovery and experience.

All in all, the new Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 seems to offer everything a web content management platform should support to manage a public facing site.

Next, we will analyze some of the strategic website objectives that are driving web initiatives at organizations and see how Sharepoint compares against some of the leading CMS platforms in the market in helping you meet or exceed your business objectives.

Strategic Website Objectives

Websites have evolved over the years. Organizations are increasing using corporate websites as a strategic channel instead of a tactical brochure site it was for so many years!

Let’s review some of the strategic website objectives in the mid market segment that business (marketers) are trying to achieve.

For the sake of making a business case for web content management, I have divided the objectives into tangible (impacting revenue & cost savings) and intangible (impacting processes, regulation & compliance) categories.

Tangible Objectives

  1. Enable the corporate website as a source of new sales leads.
  2. Allow customer self-service - thereby eliminating the need for elaborate customer service budget (resources + infrastructure).
  3. Centralize the content life cycle across all digital assets - allowing for a skeleton operating team to maintain multiple sites – typical across all organizations now.
  4. Optimize IT bandwidth (and budget) - by transferring website ownership to marketers. This move will allow organizations to focus IT & capital resources for other strategic initiatives.

Intangible Objectives

  1. Use website to promote thought leadership with the target audience - This will help create sustainable strategic advantage that competition cannot copy easily.
  2. Enable content owners (marketers & subject matter experts) to own the complete lifecycle of the content - instead of relying on IT to rollout content on their schedule.
  3. Manage the complete life cycle of the content– creation, approval, updating & content repurposing - without any coding effort.
  4. Better serve and manage multi-lingual content across all digital assets.
  5. Adhere to complex regulatory and compliance needs without creating bottlenecks in the approval process.

Next, let’s compare Sharepoint against the leading CMS platforms to see how they compare to best address the above listed website objectives.

Sharepoint Vs. CMS Platforms

Not all CMS platforms are created equal. The capabilities differ across the spectrum. Some CMS platforms are more mature than others in certain capabilities. However, they all provide general CMS capabilities in one way or another.

For the purpose of this article, I am considering a generic set of capabilities across CMS platforms that have been identified by research firms as the best of breed in the mid market segment.

Sharepoint 2010 Vs. CMS - Tangible Objectives

Sharepoint 2010 Vs. CMS - Intangible Objectives

As illustrated in the above snapshots, Sharepoint 2010 platform provides a rich set of capabilities that competes with the leading content management platforms. In areas where it lacks out-of-the-box capability, Sharepoint will require varying degree of customization to fulfill the strategic objective.

For Sharepoint, one of the biggest challenges and in my opinion perhaps the most important one with respect to the web content management initiatives is the extensive dependency on IT resources. I expect Sharepoint 2010 to continue maintenance under the IT wing, post deployment, and that means longer time to market, slow enhancements resulting in slower penetration and adoption amongst the business users.

Next, let’s review some of the capabilities offered by the leading CMS platforms that enable them to differentiate themselves from Microsoft Sharepoint 2010.

CMS Platform’s edge in the web content management space

CMS Platforms have evolved over the years from a basic website editing tool to managing the day-to-day tasks that enable a strategic edge for an organization.

CMS platforms are best positioned in the marketer’s toolbox. They allow marketers to position the right message, to the right audience, in the right context, on all devices, in multiple languages, across multiple networks, in the shortest timeframe with limited or no IT involvement, both during and after initial implementation, at a low initial and total cost of ownership!

Core Capabilities Of CMS Platforms

The leading CMS platforms provide all the necessary tools to enable marketer’s to do their job easily and efficiently. Capabilities like Multi-Variant Testing, Lead Scoring, Content Targeting, Multi-site & multi-device deployments, DAM (Digital Asset Management) capabilities, Ease of administration, Low upfront cost and even lower total cost of ownership set CMS platforms in the leader’s corner of the web content management space. 

In my opinion, the real edge for CMS platforms is their success at end user adoption. In the web content management world, as is the case with the enterprise content management systems as well, ‘adoption = success’.

We have all seen our fair share of disappointments due to lack of end user adoptability in various implementations. The leading CMS platforms do a fabulous job in making their systems easy to use by end users. With little training, I have seen business users (marketers) use and manage the CMS platforms to manage big, complex websites. Given everyone’s experience with adoption failures in previous Sharepoint initiatives, we should be looking out for ease of adoption in the new Sharepoint 2010 platform.

Sharepoint 2010 Recap

Sharepoint 2010 bundles with great new capabilities that will allow for new ways to share documents and collaborate on corporate intranets and secure portals. The new web content management capabilities will offer an opportunity to employ Sharepoint capabilities for corporate web sites. The platform will offer exceptional integration with the corporate intranet site, especially for organizations that need to push intranet specific content out to the public sites – for example higher education vertical.

Sharepoint will continue to serve as a rich platform that can scale to serve organization objectives given we allocate enough time and budgetary resources for the initiative.

Recommendations

In closing, I would recommend the following if you are planning a new website initiative –

  1. List your strategic website objectives. Make sure you are considering both tangible and intangible objectives.
  2. Map your strategic objectives to the available technology platforms to determine which platform will get the job done –
  3. Efficiently
  4. In a timely manner
  5. At a reasonable price point
  6. Is easy to adopt by the end user and easy to administer
  7. Will enable your business user (marketer) to manage website content to create sustainable strategic differentiator in your competitive landscape
  8. Do keep in mind the long term TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of your website initiative ‘cause your needs will change and evolve as you become more strategic and sophisticated with using your website as a strategic channel for your organization.

 

For more details on Microsoft Sharepoint Capabilities visit - http://sharepoint2010.microsoft.com/product/capabilities/Pages/default.aspx

For a complete list of Web Content Management capabilities in Sharepoint 2010 visit - http://blogs.msdn.com/ecm/archive/2010/03/12/introducing-web-content-management-in-sharepoint-2010.aspx

5 Reasons Why SharePoint 2010 Will Revolutionize Your Organization

What if you can reduce cost and still provide the necessary tools to meet organizational needs? SharePoint 2010 (news, site) can do exactly that. 

Don’t You Love It When

  • You get a meeting invite with 20 massive attachments. Then after the meeting, action items fly back and forth via email with additional attachments.
  • You triumphantly win the game at work called “Whoever-saves-the-file-last-in-the-network-share-wins?”. This game also tests your memory skills by remembering that the file has to be saved in a location 18 folders deep.
  • You ask IT to build some system yet you get it when it’s too late. IT is so slammed these days that you’re so careful when you make such requests.

It’s Time For A Revolution! The days of email and network share collaboration are over. Down with the draconian IT institution! IT is so swamped these days that they can’t help you in a timely manner. Power to the people! What if you can be in charge of your technical destiny?

Join the SharePoint Revolution

SharePoint 2010 is the collaboration platform for the enterprise and the web, which addresses and enhances organizational collaboration needs around: Document Management, Collaboration, Reporting, Content Management, Records Management and Compliance (Additional reading: SharePoint 2010 Review: The New 6 Pillars of SharePoint).

Here are 5 reasons why SharePoint 2010 will revolutionize your organization:

1. Empower Individuals

It empowers users to build their own solutions, which traditionally they would rely on IT to do. Let’s walk down memory lane back in the early 90’s: How was a project manager able to have a centralized repository for project artifacts? They would have to send in a request to IT to provision a network share for the project or perhaps a website. Would the PM get one in a timely fashion?

With SharePoint 2010, not only can project managers provision their own project sites, they can build related solutions as well like dashboards, workflow automation and integration with existing tools and systems. The technical barrier to entry is relatively low. It builds on users’ existing skill set and familiarity with Microsoft Windows, Office and web-based technologies.

2. Delivers Relevant Information

With SharePoint 2010, corporate information can be better-organized and identified with enhanced metadata management features and powerful search.

In addition, the complete overhaul of My Sites in SharePoint 2010 takes personalization and social computing to a whole new level in the enterprise. It is a personal hub that allows you to interact with relevant content and people. Think Facebook for the enterprise.

Wouldn’t it be great if you found out that a colleague of yours in Asia that you rarely interact with just finished a similar project that you are about to start? How beneficial can it be if relevant information is delivered to you at the right time?

3. Supports Compliance Requirements

SharePoint 2010 has upgraded features for Records Management allowing for better management of organizational records from cradle to grave.

It can provide out-of-the-box solutions for industry-specific compliance such as Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX), 21 CFR Part 11 and the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).

Additional reading: How SharePoint Can Deliver Project Transparency and The Scoop: SharePoint 2010 Records Management.

4. Interoperability

A compelling benefit of SharePoint 2010 is its’ cross platform capability:

  • It has adopted the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG 2.0) for cross browser compatibility. Read Maximizing SharePoint 2010 on a Mac + iPhone or iPod + iPad 
  • Apart from Windows-based authentication, it can interface with various industry standard authentication mechanisms such as Open ID and OAuth.
  • It supports industry standard data interchange via Web Services, XML, ODBC, Connection Strings, etc. Interaction with varying data sources can be accomplished with SharePoint 2010 tools like Business Connectivity Services (BCS).

5. It’s All About The Benjamins

Taking a strategic assessment of your organization, step back and consider how much are you spending on licensing, support, training and maintenance of various tools like Content Management Systems, Document Management Systems, Reporting tools, Collaboration tools.

More importantly, what’s the cost of:

  • Users’ frustration over multiple tools?
  • Management not being able to aggregate and extract organizational information?
  • Relevant information is not available when needed?

What if you can reduce cost and still provide the necessary tools to meet organizational needs? SharePoint 2010 can do exactly that. As Ted Schadler of Forrester points out, “ … Microsoft has bundled in tools that you previously paid another vendor to provide. Storage, social tools, basic archiving, email filtering, etc. Add it all up, and the economics just make sense."

How real is the SharePoint revolution? It’s as real as 1000 people showing up wanting to learn about Sharepoint at a community-driven event last May 15 in Washington, DC on a nice Saturday.

element8 Supports Enterprise Transformation via SharePoint Based Xpoint

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Every organization goes through some kind of change at one point or another. element8 software has developed a Web 2.0 solution that provides a collaboration environment design to support the rapid delivery of change that encourages participation by all. The solution is called Xpoint and it's delivered on the SharePoint platform.

 

Supporting the Transformation Process

Organizational change is not easy, but it is often necessary to achieve a competitive advantage in your market. It requires input from many and needs to follow a structured lifecycle methodology to ensure it is implemented successfully.

element8 Software has designed a new solution called Xpoint to help manage the transformation activity.

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xPoint - A Web 2.0 Solution

What capabilities does Xpoint provide? Here's a sample:

 

  • Collaboration and Knowledge Management: The ability to for everyone to participate though various collaboration tools, social networking and knowledge bases.
  • Performance Management: Dashboards, reports, KPIs and all the things business leaders new to ensure things are being done.
  • Innovation Management: Capture ideas, putting the processes in place to approve and align them to strategy.
  • Transformation Lifecycles: Xpoint implements a structured lifecycle methodology, like six sigma and the additional tools needed to make it work.
  • Integration with Business Systems: Integration with email, Finance, Performance Management, HR and other business systems.

The SharePoint Connection

What brought Xpoint to our attention is that it is built on SharePoint, demonstrating how the platform can be leveraged to build powerful business applications.

According to Geoff Carss, VP Sales and Marketing for element8 software, Xpoint uses the underlying SharePoint platform for capability such as backup and restore, storage, security, farm deployment, multiple instances, site collection and database administration, search and more.

The SharePoint object model and API are also leveraged; however, element8 has built its own unique user interface, pulling together all the underlying elements required based on their expertise enterprise transformation needs.

Supporting Enterprise Transformation

Xpoint looks to be a strong solution for supporting organizations through business transformations. All the tools and processes are in place in a single environment that not only informs management, but enables everyone to get engaged and be part of the process.

The fact that it's built on Microsoft's most popular platform to date helps — if you have a SharePoint environment already.

FileTek Releases Migration Tool, Adapters For SharePoint, IBM, Open Text

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Information and document management provider FileTek (site) has just released new content migration software that enables users to move documents that are stored on network files into enterprise content management systems.

The new Trusted Edge for Intelligent Content Migration (ICM) works by providing adapters for the majority of systems including SharePoint, Open Text’s Livelink and IBM’s content and records management software.

In essence what ICM does is to locate, classify and move documents based on administrator defined criteria into secure locations by uniformly classifying and tagging both new and legacy content during the archiving process.

Intelligent Document Migrations

Maybe it’s just an accident that this has been released only two months before the release of SharePoint 2010 but whether it is or not, it will give SharePoint users an additional adapter that will be able to take network documents and throw them into SharePoint.

While it’s not the only system that will benefit, all the buzz at the moment is SharePoint 2010 and this kind of release needs to be seen in this context just for the moment.

One of the principal advantages of this new software is that it will be able to burrow into shared drives across a network and all the information that is stored in them, be that information business critical or horoscopes downloaded over lunch breaks, identify what is needed, take it out of the shared files and send it to a safe repository.

For the large part, current software moves bulk data “as is” and pushes it all across to a repository so instead of having a disorganized and uncategorized stack of document files in your shared folders, you have a stack of disorganized and uncategorized documents in your records management, document management or enterprise content management system. And that’s not good.

ICM deals with this by tagging only relevant content according to pre-configured file policies that can be built around file type, path, name and even file content. Based on that it can make intelligent decisions on whether the content should be migrated. If the content is moved, it is tagged with further metadata to make it easier again to find.

FileTek’s Trusted Edge

This is not the first foray for FileTek into the world of unstructured content, nor is it the first time it has produced software to deal with it.

Last September it released Trusted Edge v4.0 which is able to get into employee’s laptops and desktops — transparently they say — to get all the unclassified content sitting there properly organized.

By its own estimates, FileTek reckons that up to 80% of unstructured content resides on either desktops on laptops and their focus with that release was to cull the content form “the edge of networks” and classify it all.

It too can work with the major ECM systems, including SharePoint, IBM Content Manager, Open Text Livelink and EMC. Watch out for further solutions to whip all that unruly content into shape!

Document Management Roll-up: Migrating Lotus Notes To SharePoint 2010, Open Text Gets Mobile

This week AvePoint released a migration tool for moving Lotus Notes content into SharePoint 2010, while the markets wait for Oracle's Q3 results. Meanwhile, Open Text makes your documents mobile.

AvePoint, Lotus Notes And SharePoint 2010

AvePoint (news, site) continues to produce new tools for the upcoming release of SharePoint 2010, this time with DocAve Lotus Notes Migrator for SharePoint, which predictably enough enables companies using Lotus Notes to migrate seamlessly to SharePoint 2010.

Last month, DocAve Migrator solved the problem of moving legacy content from SharePoint 2003 and SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010 (news, site) with the DocAve Migrator.

This latest release, DocAve Lotus Notes Migrator for SharePoint, is one of three tools in the DocAve Notes Transition Suite. The others include:

  • DocAve Notes Migrator for Exchange: Enables automatic migration of content from Lotus Notes to Exchange.
  • DocAve Replicator for SharePoint: Gives real time synchronization of content in SharePoint to mirror that of Lotus Notes.

Combined, users can map all content, documents and other collaborative assets from Lotus Notes, QuickPlace and Quickr, including workflows, document libraries and built-in views to SharePoint 2007 and 2010 lists, libraries, sites, workflows and wiki destinations.

Oracle’s Q3 Results

Nothing like being forewarned. In this case it’s just to give the heads-up that Oracle (site) will be releasing its results for the third quarter on Thursday coming in what is widely being anticipated as the best indicator of how technology spending, particularly within the enterprise content management sector, is doing so far this year.

Analysts at most financial institutions are anticipating a rise in sales overall, with news agency Reuters (site) reporting that their survey of analysts are expecting the software giant to make, and even beat, Wall Street expectations.

Last August Oracle's closely watched new software sales fell short of analysts' forecasts in that quarter as it got hit by the brunt of the tech slowdown. While predictions are generally optimistic, the wild card will be how Sun (site) has performed — the acquisition of which was finally closed five weeks before the end of the quarter.

Pegasystems Upgrades BPM Suite

Only a week after Pegasystems announced the US $161 million deal that saw the business process management software vendor buying out customer relationship management vendor Chrodiant, it has announced the release of the latest version of its SmartBPM Suite.

SmartBPM 6 got its first public airing at the Gartner Business Process Management summit, which is running at the moment in Las Vegas.

Among the many new features, SmartBPM 6 delivers advanced collaboration capabilities, increased speed and usability via its Web-based user interface. It also offers enhanced process discovery, and role-based views to enhance ease of use. In fact, there is a lot to be said about the new collaboration abilities in this version.

There is, for example, extended multi-channel collaboration with built-in support for email, chat, RSS and business events enabling users to bring any form of communication with clients into the process, meaning every interaction, question and exception becomes part of the process.

It also comes with an event feed integrated into the SmartBPM business architecture so business and analyst teams can easily connect and communicate in a single environment.

This can only help to integrate Chrodiant into its business. Pegasystems vertical frameworks along with its process management capabilities fit tightly with Chordiant's CRM expertise and the plan is to unify both. There has been no indication as yet how long before we willsee the release of a combined product.

Open Text Everywhere

With the extension of Open Text’s (site) enterprise content management suite to mobile devices, users will now be able to manage their documents and data using a new application called Open Text Everywhere.

Part of the newly outlined mobile strategy, the application will offer users the ability of manage and browse folders and view and manage email documents stored in the Open Text ECM Suite. It will also be able to initiate workflows and attach and view documents related to business processes.

Document Management Developments In Asia

India seems just about irresistible to document management companies looking for new markets. Canon (site) has announced that it will roll out a new line of document management products there in the coming weeks, while Xerox (site) has just announced the opening of an “innovation hub” that will focus on developing document management products.

Canon’s 40 new products, the company says, will all be able to integrate with both Adobe (site) and Microsoft (site ) ensuring comprehensive security and document lifecycle management capabilities. There are also plans to roll out newer line of hi-end commercial printers and projectors.

The aim of Canon’s move is to double its B2B and government business revenue in India with document management and image capturing devices seen as future growth drivers. The government sector and B2B segment currently contributes around 20% each to the company’s turnover.

For its part Xerox is bringing together researchers and industry partners to develop document management software that is accessible to emerging market countries.

Located in the city of Chennai, the India Hub will enable Xerox to expand and build relationships it already has in the region with research focusing on imaging, data mining and smart document management as well as cloud computing.

Mobile Entrée Now Supports SharePoint 2010, BCS

H3 Solutions, creator of Mobile Entrée (site), a mobile application framework for SharePoint, has announced some new capabilities which include support for the upcoming SharePoint 2010 and its new Business Connectivity Services.

Building Mobile Apps for SharePoint

We introduced you to Mobile Entree in June of last year. It's a server side plug-in for SharePoint that will let you access your SharePoint data from a number of smartphones.

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Mobile Application Framework

Version 1.3 Updates

The latest release of the framework — version 1.3 — brings even better enterprise application integration capabilities when SharePoint 2010 arrives at your door. Actually, it supports the current release candidate for SharePoint 2010, so you can start developing now.

What's new in 1.3 other than support for SharePoint 2010:

  • List paging — The mobile device now uses the list setting defined in the view
  • Enhanced search results — More detailed information is now displayed so you don't just see a list of Titles
  • Full Site Toggle — A cookie-based system allows a user/device to be ignored by the HTTP  Module and you can

Supporting Mobile with SharePoint 2010

The primary reason for version 1.3 was to provide early support for SharePoint 2010. Support for SharePoint 2010's new Business Connectivity Services is a welcome addition to the functionality list that will enable true enterprise applications reaching out via mobile devices.

At the SharePoint Conference in Vegas last year, Microsoft did announce support for mobile devices in SharePoint 2010, and not just for their own smartphone. In addition, SharePoint is supposed to play an important role in the new Windows Phone 7 series' OfficeHub. OfficeHub will let you sync documents between your PC and your phone and includes SharePoint for collaboration.

So it looks like SharePoint and mobile are getting friendlier by the day. Something we are definitely looking into to provide you more details.

Microsoft Unveils a User Experience Kit

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Lots of interesting things happening at SXSW (site) over the weekend. Even Microsoft was in the game launching a new User Experience Kit for technical and creative leads. Let's see what's in the box.

Mapping Technology to the User Experience

The Microsoft stack of technologies is big, so big that it may be confusing or frustrating for both technical and creative leads to know how that technology aids in providing a strong user experience. It's not that Microsoft doesn't offer a lot of information on the subject, it's just spread across the entire technology stack.

The new User Experience Kit centralizes all that information, providing things such as videos, reference implementations, sample code, live demos, installable tools, whitepapers, pattern libraries and all that good stuff.

User Experience Kit Deliverables

The kit focuses on a number of important areas including:

  • Rich media Delivery
  • Content Publishing
  • Targeted (Personalized) Experiences
  • Multi-Channel Digital Marketing
  • Publisher Advertising
  • Connected Cients
  • Browser Extensions
  • Advertising Intelligence

It is good to know that the kit includes a great deal of SharePoint guidance in a number of areas listed above. But it also includes technologies such as Silverlight, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows 7 Touch, Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone, Expression Studio and Microsoft Advertising

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Microsoft's Unified Digital Marketing Platform

How to Get Your Kit

The first phase provided the kit via disk/thumbdrive to install locally. But it's this next phase that will show the most uptaket: a web hosted solution — on as one would expect, Azure.

It is implemented using Silverlight, is configurable, searchable and tagged. The Browser framework used by the Silverlight Demo Kit is also used for the UX Kit.

The end goal is to see the kit supported and driven by the community, but initial support will come from a Partner Evangelism team.

Phase 1 was delivered on January 15th at 90% completion. This announcement is for Phase 2. Phase 3 will come by the end of the Fiscal year and should include community submission features.

You can view the kit now (of course you may need IE, because the website didn't come up in FireFox) and download whatever you need to get your job done.

Is Microsoft's New Windows Phone 7 Smartphone Competition for iPhone?

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The mobile space is always ready for a good dust-up, will Microsoft's (site) Windows Phone 7 be the one to shake the Apple tree?

One Ringtone to Rule them All?

Technology empires regularly come and go. When was the last time you heard the phrase "IBM PC", "Hayes Modem" or  "Sega Console"?.

In the mobile space, things seem to happen even quicker. PDAs — now smartphones — were long considered executive tinker toys. It is only in the last few years with BlackBerry, and then Apple's entry into the market (approaching a dominant 70% of the smartphone market between them) that cemented the idea of doing business on the phone.

Windows Phone 7 goes straight for the consumer with its bold, block-panel display, slick all-in-one interface and use of large font sizes. It all looks a million miles away from those HP iPAQ's that were de-riguer but much-despised before the rise of the BlackBerry.

The hype around the announcement is rather reminiscent of Windows 7 blowing PC users away after the botched launch of Windows Vista. It's a big improvement on Microsoft's existing product, therefore generates much noise, but still has to appeal to the wider phone market and picky real-world users. Even Microsoft staff seem loathe to drop their iPhones, to the annoyance of the head honchos.

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Microsoft has come a long way in interface design, but is it enough?

But can Microsoft and its many hardware partners (including; LG, Samsung, Garmin, Sony Ericsson, Dell HP and HTC) really storm the iPhone's market share in any meaningful manner?

A Brave New Rebirth

Apple, while hardly being innovative on the ideas front, has redefined the idea of apps and touch screens firmly in the consumer conscience and created a controlled environment to change the market.

Which brings us to the late market re-entrant that is Microsoft. Ever since the early PDAs and smartphones, Microsoft OS-based mobile devices have been clunky and boring to say the least. So, a total refresh was obviously needed. Something it took a brave decision to do, even as Windows 6.5 for smartphones was also in development. 

What the Experts Say

Mark Hattersley, Editor-in-Chief of Macworld UK, took some time to point out what he thinks are the pros and cons of the Microsoft's new play in the market.

The greatest strength is, of course, that it's Windows. Despite everything, that's still an operating system that many people are familiar with and integration with the desktop edition is always a strength Microsoft will have — especially integration with Office.

Beyond that key features such as tethering (available as standard on Windows Mobile phones) is something you have to pay for on an iPhone. Plus, of course, the OS supports a range of handsets giving consumers choice for things like keyboards, larger screens, haptic screens, and so on."

Too Little, Too Late?

Hattersley also points out the cons:

Weakness is simply timing, above all. Microsoft has been extremely slow to react to the iPhone, and Android, and it's hard to genuinely see a standout feature that Windows 7 Mobile has over the iPhone. The runaway success of Apple's App Store means that many iPhone owners have invested not just in hardware, but software, and it will be hard to convince them to lose all that for a phone that doesn't offer something substantial."

How does he think it will do in the overall marketplace? 

I think it'll struggle to take on Android, let alone the iPhone. Certainly for the next year or so. But Microsoft plays a long game and the mobile market is still incredibly new. I have no idea on numbers - shall we say"

Slightly more optimistic, Ben Harvell, editor of iCreate magazine, reckons

It seems the UI has more of a social bent than the iPhone which is a bonus for today's web-focused, social networking obsessed market. I also like the fact that (according to MS) all of the contacts I need and the information I'm after is available quickly and from the interface, not within individual apps. I would even go so far as to say I like the design! XBox Live integration will be a major deciding factor for a massive user base of gamers."

Under Pressure

The pressure is on Microsoft to get this right the first time. Apple got a lot of flack for issues with its early iPhones that have taken many updates and the recent 3GS model to put right. Apple still hasn't mastered multitasking, although that should be sorted by summer, and refuses to let Flash run.

Microsoft will not have the luxury of time (Zune, anyone?) on its side to get issues right. The phones, user interface, app store, the number of apps and marketing, all need to be 100% present and correct on launch day. 

Inter-Face-Off

On the plus side:

Range: Compared to Apple's single choice (barring memory sizes) of three different phone-types lets the buyer pick the phone of their choice:

  • Large touchscreen (iPhone)
  • Keyboard at the bottom model (Palm Treo-style)
  • Candybar or (possibly) slide-out keyboard (To be confirmed)

Office: Compatibility with SharePoint and Microsoft Office means instant access to most of the world's businesses.

Games: Linking into the Xbox Live brand could tempt gamers and the power of the SnapDragon CPU and portability of DirectX means a big gaming cross-over. Something that could produce better PSP-style gaming rather than the iPhone staples of cutesy time wasters.

On the minus side:

Brand: The name, "Windows Phone 7 Series" is already a confusing, jumbled, marketing loser. Hopefully, something snappier will be available by release — or phone makers will use their own branding — but that too will dilute the idea of a unified ecosystem which is where Apple has made its mark.

Late, late, late: Microsoft is so far behind the curve, to be almost off the chart.

Fortune Favors the Brave

Perhaps the biggest advantage Microsoft has is that a large core of phone users are gadget buyers who want the latest, coolest toys. It's this vocal minority of people who brought Apple into the market and they could do the same for Microsoft — if the product hits the right notes.

Time will tell if these people are Apple-followers in the Mac sense, or just a passing crowd willing to leave their iPhones behind.

Check it out for yourself:

 
Ballmer: 70% of Microsoft Employees are working on Cloud-based Projects

For a company that is known primarily for the desktop, new comments by CEO Steve Ballmer that 70% of Microsoft's employees are doing something "cloud-based or cloud-inspired" seems an odd shift in focus. But then, everyone is in a rush to the cloud these days. Why would Microsoft (site) be any different.

Spreading the Word on Cloud Computing

On March 4, Ballmer spoke at the University of Washington on the topic of cloud computing. He talked about how Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's Chief Software Architect, wrote a memo five years ago talking about the importance of the cloud, and how they were all "stimulated" by it. But, as he points out, Microsoft is really only scratching the surface of what they could be doing.

That being said, Ballmer went on to say that Microsoft, like many other tech companies out there, are "betting on the cloud". Which explains why 70% of the company is "doing something that is designed exclusively for the cloud, or is inspired to serve the five dimensions." And what 5 dimensions are these?

5 Key Dimensions of the Cloud

If you want to know where Microsoft's focus is, Ballmer offered five key opportunities, "five key dimensions in the cloud, five key opportunities, five key things that I think need your best ideas, your best thoughts, your best invention, commercial inventions, academic inventions, product inventions to really drive forward."

  1. The cloud creates opportunities and responsibilities
  2. The cloud learns and helps you learn, decide and take action
  3. The cloud enhances your social and professional interactions
  4. The cloud wants smarter devices
  5. The cloud drives server advances that, in turn, drive the cloud

We already know what cloud-based opportunities Microsoft has been working on: Office Web Apps, Microsoft Azure, SQL Azure, LiveID, SharePoint and Exchange. And it's pretty sure there are some other things happening in Redmond that we don't know about.

A year from now, Ballmer says that 70% of employees working on cloud-based projects will be 90%.

You can read the entire transcript from his speech, or if that's just a little too long a read (because it kind of is).

 

The Cloud Creates Opportunity

To quote Ballmer,

this cloud thing is just another big step that the world is buzzing about, and thinking about, that will create the opportunities for all the folks in this room to do important research, to build important products, to drive forward, and do fantastic things."

 There isn't a day that goes by that we aren't talking about cloud computing in some way, whether it's a new service, new infrastructure or research on organizations today are thinking about or doing with the cloud. Ballmer is right, the cloud does create opportunity. How is your organization taking advantage of it?

Is Cloud-Based SharePoint 2010 a Viable Enterprise Option?

A recent paper released by Forrester Research (site) entitled SharePoint 2010: A More Viable Cloud Option argues that if you are looking at deploying SharePoint off the premises, with the introduction of SharePoint 2010 (site),  now is a good time to do it.

The problem with SharePoint Online until now, report author Rob Koplowitz says, is that cloud-based SharePoint, either standalone or as part of Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), demonstrates a number of limitations compared to an on-premise version. However, SharePoint 2010 closes the gap in functionality between the deployment options and opens up SharePoint Online to a wider range of applications.

And while there may be still some differences between SharePoint 2010 Online and the on-premise version, the report foresees Microsoft continuing to revisit the viability of including those missing features over time.

SharePoint Environment Improvements

In January, when we talked about SharePoint 2010 and the version of SharePoint Online that would run with it , we noted that the principal improvements would be the result of the multi-tenancy features that would see the online version coming a lot closer to the on-premise version  than the online version based on SharePoint 2007 did.

While the new version is unlikely to reach parity with this release, Koplowitz says, there are key improvements to the environment that will make SharePoint Online more viable for more organizations.

These include:

  • SharePoint Online Dedicated: Microsoft is to introduce a review process that will make code customization far more straightforward and accessible. Additionally, customizations that fall within the new “sandbox” definition will not require review at all.
  • SharePoint Online Standard: This edition will better align with the new server offering. The result is that users will be able to benefit from new capabilities including: My Sites, tagging, tag clouds, activity feeds, Office Web Apps, business intelligence, records management, forms amongst others.

Some functionality will continue to require an on-premise implementation. Microsoft (site)  has said it will be looking this over time. Also, easier integration with other internal applications often requires on-premise deployment.

SharePoint Online Deployment?

In light of the improvements, and because of remaining short-comings, the report has four recommendations for companies that might be considering taking advantage of the relatively low cost of online deployment.

These are:

  • Security and Compliance: Work with you legal and HR departments to determine if it is feasible to store data outside the enterprises on-site information store as there may be issues with compliance or security. However, even if the event that there are such issues, SP Online Dedicated may still be possible, while multi-tenant probably won’t.
  • SharePoint 2010 Online functionality: If you have not already deployed an on-premise version but considering SharePoint, then the costs for an online version might be worth looking at, including the costs of hiring or retracing staff as SharePoint particularly as functionality with SP 2010 is greatly enhanced.
  • SharePoint On-Premise and Online: Companies that already have SharePoint may take advantage of cloud-based services to augment an existing on-premise deployment (if only for reasons of cost). Common scenarios would include storing sensitive data on-premise while less sensitive business content could be stored in the cloud.
  • Partial Deployment: Another scenario is deploying a small on-premise SharePoint implementation to take advantage of advanced capabilities, while the majority of more commoditized capabilities like workspaces and portal content could be provisioned in the cloud.

If the principal reasons for not opting for SharePoint Online have been its limitations, then now is the time to rethink your options. While SharePoint Online based on SP 2010 is not the equivalent of its on-premise relative, it is close and Microsoft promise to keep looking at it.

If you are interested in reading more on this the report is available to buy from Forrester for US US$ 499.