Microsoft have just changed the game. With the recent launch of SharePoint 2013 and Office 365, small businesses can now get enterprise level, cloud-based email and web-based office products at a competitive cost. Also, the new apps for SharePoint and Office open the doors for app publishers and consumers to enhance their SharePoint and Office experiences cheaply and easily.
12 years in the making
SharePoint. The name means different things to different people, but no one can deny its success in the enterprise market place. When it was first introduced by Microsoft back in 2001, it was an awkward and clunky document management system. Since then, it’s grown into one of the company’s most successful product lines, encompassing many different areas of functionality, such as enterprise document management and collaboration, web content management, enterprise search, workflow and business intelligence.
Enterprise organisations have flocked to adopt the product, favouring its jack-of-all-trades model over more expensive, specialist products.
Not just a product, but a platform
SharePoint is also well known for its level of customisability, with an extensive API that can be leveraged using Microsoft’s .NET development framework. However, deploying and customising SharePoint is no cheap undertaking. The platform’s complexity means that building a robust and scalable solution requires teams of experienced specialist architects and developers. While their third-party tools are numerous, they are mostly targeted to the enterprise and priced accordingly.
In reality, that complexity along, with license costs and infrastructure requirements meant, that few small- to medium-sized organisations could realistically deploy SharePoint in any meaningful way, let alone customise or brand their SharePoint sites for their own purposes.
Apps and the online office
Together with Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 platform (which provides organisations with the Office suite of products), SharePoint, enterprise-grade email and audio/video conferencing, smaller organisations for the first time can access SharePoint’s features and purchase apps or build their own for much more practical costs.
Rich, engaging office documents?
Microsoft have made it very clear that apps are the way to go when choosing how to build new features and functionality for the platform. In fact, they have even provided an online store so that app creators can distribute their products to the marketplace, and consumers can locate and purchase third-party apps quickly and easily.
Web standards and social integration
Apps aren’t the only new feature of SharePoint 2013 to strengthen an already impressive feature set. Microsoft have added a feature called Device Channels which enables easier implementation of responsive website design. They have also expanded browser support to include proper Safari compatibility, which will make the legions of iPad business users happy. Social networking will become a seriously important feature of SharePoint with Microsoft’s $1.2B acquisition of Yammer (the popular enterprise social network). Starting from this summer, SharePoint will be updated to include integration with Yammer social networks, enabling a real ‘Facebook’ style experience for SharePoint users to work with their enterprise content and connect with colleagues.
With Office 365 and SharePoint 2013, small businesses have a real opportunity to access enterprise features that were previously not an option, directly challenging Google’s cloud-based Apps for Businesses offering. Time will tell whether Microsoft will be successful in wrestling away Google’s share of the small business online office market.comments powered by Disqus