SharePoint: The next big 'operating system' from Microsoft?

Summary:Could SharePoint Server become the new center of Microsoft's universe (at least among business users)? SharePoint as an operating system in and of itself? These ideas aren't as crazy as they might sound.

Many industry pundits have speculated as to whether Windows Vista is the last big-bang release of Windows. (The answer, as Microsoft officials have repeatedly stated, is no.)

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?

My favorite question during the Q&A session at the end of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's Convergence conference keynote address on March 14 sounded deceptively simple. I'm paraphrasing, but the questioner asked Ballmer something like this: "With all the hoopla here at the conference around SharePoint Server, is it correct to think of SharePoint as almost like an OS (operating system)"?

Bingo.

Microsoft officials increasingly are talking up "Software + Services," as opposed to "Software as a Service" in explaining Microsoft's future. So how does Microsoft keep the growing family of business services it is introducing tethered to on-premise software?

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.

Ballmer also provided one of the most succinct definitions of SharePoint Server I've heard from any Microsoft exec. SharePoint is just like Office; it's a bunch of point products gathered together into a suite. Although Microsoft is not fond of calling out the six or so servers that comprise Office SharePoint Server, it is a bunch of server apps loosely joined.

What are Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Dynamics ERP other than the perfect guinea pigs for Microsoft's attempts to make SharePoint Server the new, must-have platform for its business users? Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) is the captive laboratory for Microsoft's Software + Services experiments.

Agree? Disagree? Or is SharePoint Server just not on your radar screen (yet)?

Topics: Microsoft

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.