There's no one in the world better equipped to discuss Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration software than Jeff Teper, corporate vice president of the Office Business Platform, who started the SharePoint team 10 years ago.
I spoke with Teper ahead of Microsoft's SharePoint Conference, where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer confirmed the public beta of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 will become available in November.
SharePoint Server, which includes wikis and other social features to let teams work together, is the undisputed leading collaboration program in the market. The company has raked in over $1.3 billion in revenue, growing 20 percent in the last year, according to IDC.
Teper said SharePoint Server 2010 was the group's biggest release ever, boasting hundreds of new features. These include the already well-known "Ribbon" user interface to let users customize and navigate the application with ease, something that hasn't always been an attribute of the software. The software will also include Silverlight support, social tagging, document life cycle management and Web content management with multilingual support and one-click page layout.
This being Google Watch, I asked Teper how the new and improved SharePoint Server 2010 differentiates from Google Apps, the search engine's collaboration software suite of word processing, wiki and other applications hosted on Google's servers and delivered to customers via the Internet cloud.
Incidentally, the company just announced it has surpassed the 2 million business customer mark and stepped up its Going Google advertising campaign. Not timed to disrupt the SharePoint conference, of course.
Like Ballmer, Teper had a tough time saying, "Google," preferring to describe it as the other "guy you mentioned" and noting that it was lost at sea in the Gartner "magic quadrants," which SharePoint tends to dominate. Classic spite. I LOVE that.
Still, pulling the magic quadrant card is an old standby reflective of Microsoft's old-school software mentality. Magic quadrants are no longer the hallowed, be all, end all of product success they once were, but I digress.
Calling SharePoint a "Swiss-army knife," Teper said SharePoint Server 2010 is easier to use than Google Apps. For example, Microsoft has a new offline client called SharePoint Workspace, allowing users to take SharePoint sites offline, edit the content and have the documents synchronize when the sites go back online.
Actually, this isn't really new -- it's the technology from Groove Networks tailored for SharePoint. Teper argues it will be a game changer.
"In the Web collaboration space, we'll be the clear leader there with SharePoint Workspace," Teper said.
But, I said, Google already offers offline capabilities for Docs, Gmail. How is it better, than, say the capabilities in the Google Gears offline syncing application?
Teper said SharePoint Workspace is a more powerful client, noting that if you compare that tool to anything "else out there," it will be superior. SharePoint Workspace, for example, will let users make one change on one presentation slide without saving the whole presentation up to the server.
He also noted there the Ribbon will let users, through the "magic of AJAX" sit in a Web browser and make changes easily to a Website, swapping videos and editing right in place without calling up forms and videos. Moreover, SharePoint 2010 will have better integration with the OneNote note-taking tool.
Finally, he said SharePoint 2010 stands out for its depth of functionality in social networking, content management, business intelligence, the ability to do dashboards and scorecards, create workflows, etc. Digital asset management and policy, compliance, and records management are also areas SharePoint addresses that Google Apps doesn't.
Actually, SharePoint has long had these features as advantages or differentiation points of Google Apps. We wouldn't expect them to disappear, so it's incumbent on Google to step up and start adding such functionality, where it makes sense.
In one specific differentiation, Teper said SharePoint 2010 will enable social tagging to let people map out the taxonomies and relationships between content and people "that no one else has out there" in a unified collaboration suite.
Teper has a point there. Google Apps does lack those capabilities. We're still waiting for OpenSocial to work with Google Apps! Even IBM does social tagging in Lotus Connections, both on-premises and for the cloud.
There is also no Web content management or business intelligence to speak of for Google Apps. The team might argue that not all customers want those capabilities, but many do.
As SharePoint 2010 begins to gain more traction, expect Google to make some buys to flesh out Google Apps.
It's a lot easier and faster to buy a Web content management specialist such as FatWire, a cloud-based business intelligence provider such as Panorama or a visualization mapping provider such as Mindjet than to build this functionality.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt said Google is looking to beef up its enterprise -- actually all of its business lines -- through acquisitions. Why not start now?