By way of the Windows Server team blog Microsoft have announced that Windows SharePoint Services (WSS) 3.0 and beyond will no longer be bundled with the Windows Server. Instead, it will be offered as a separate -- and still free -- download, which customers must take the extra step to acquire.
The move is a significant one; but the implications are not so clear.Microsoft product manager Julius Sinkevicius made the decision public in an economically worded post on the Windows Server team blog.
Julius stated thus:
As we’re getting closer to release [of Windows Server 2008], Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 is returning to how it was previously available to Windows Server 2008 customers. Specifically, we are going back to making it available as a separate download that is available to customers at no additional charge.
Is this news? Yes.
What's important to note is that this is exactly the way things were with Windows Server 2003, until R2 came out. 2003 R2 and the beta and RC0 releases of Server 2008 bundled WSS with the operating system. (Server 2008 is due out in Q1 2008 by the way.)
Tossing the foundational element of SharePoint into the Windows Server install certainly must have pleased the SharePoint marketing and strategy teams. After all, who could complain about free-ride market penetration on a global scale? Right.
With Microsoft pinning so much on SharePoint, frankly I am a little surprised they've pulled back on this.
Julius rather opaquely explained the reasoning behind this, stating that “we made this decision to allow customers to most conveniently obtain the technology while allowing Microsoft to have flexibility in the Windows SharePoint Services development process.”
Of course the move has triggered some healthy (and unhealthy) discussions, mainly centered around what big evil scheme underlies the decision. Some suspect that MS will start charging for SharePoint Services, others speculate that they are preempting another lawsuit about their competitive practices.
With SharePoint quite literally turning the content management and collaboration market on its head, every little shift that MS makes with the product is very closely scrutinized.
Noted Microsoft spotter, Mary Jo Foley, pestered a MS spokesperson into stating that primary driver was the desire to increase the WSS team's “flexibility with the development cycle.”
Personally, I'd say that:
# Microsoft is unlikely to start charging for WSS -- they are more likely to strip WSS down a bit more (e.g., pull out the wiki) -- forcing the MOSS upgrade hand earlier and more broadly, but probably not for a while;
# the preempting a lawsuit angle has a bit of a ring to it -- there are a lot of vendors out there who'd love to throw some tacks in SharePoint's path;
# MS might just be telling the truth about wanting to loosen up the dev cycle -- after all, WSS is part of the Office group, not the OS group;
# just maybe, I'd even say hopefully, MS is going to break the dependency on Windows Server and thus address one of the major complaints for developers worldwide: one cannot develop SharePoint/MOSS/WSS solutions locally if you run Windows XP or Vista on your workstation or laptop.
This final point is a big one for the dev community. Running a virtual environment is of course an option, but its a painful one and Microsoft really should sort this out.
Speaking as a geek, I like to think the decoupling will lead to this. Considering the broader landscape, I'm sure there are a larger agendas in play. If you've got thoughts on the decoupling move, do share.