If Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella thought he was doing iPad users a favor by offering them Office support, all he accomplished was opening up a great big can of worms called collaboration, prompting some to argue that SharePoint has had its day.
And while changes to Office don't equate changes to SharePoint, the iPad launch spurred on a broader discussion amongst critics of the faults with SharePoint's mobile collaboration capabilities.
The offer of Office on the iPad appeared to many as a too late and half-hearted attempt to catch the collaboration train. The same critics didn't spare SharePoint, calling collaboration beyond the firewall a dismal affair.
One of the companies that used the occasion to point out what it saw as Microsoft’s collaboration problems was Huddle. Reacting to the launch of Office for iPad, Alastair Mitchell, CEO and cofounder of Huddle had this to say:
They say if you can’t beat them join them! Today we finally see Microsoft make a move to support the mobile workforce, competing with the likes of Google Docs by providing a mobile-enabled and simultaneous-editing office suite. Maybe one day we’ll also see Microsoft make its core enterprise collaboration platform — SharePoint — sufficiently mobile and able to support a workforce that collaborates across the firewall, but I won’t hold my breath!"
If that’s fightin’ talk, then Huddle’s other Cofounder and EVP for Strategy, Andy McLoughlin, was also in fighting form when we spoke with him late last week.
And while some might see SharePoint as a "formidable enterprise collaboration platform," McLoughlin and Mitchell would not be among them.
SharePoint Mobile Support
The first thing that McLoughlin pointed out was that the release of Office for iPad was two and a half years late. Office 365 users have been waiting for this since the launch of Office 365 with SharePoint Online and as iPad has become the dominant mobile tool in the enterprise, the lack of Office support has been a major drawback.
While this has no direct impact on SharePoint, McLoughlin did draw a parallel with SharePoint's continued problems with mobile support and collaboration beyond the firewall:
If I were a SharePoint user of 2013 or 2010 behind the firewall, I would be thinking that this tool (SharePoint) doesn’t support me (as a mobile worker) despite the fact the company I work for has shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions, to install this. I'd be kind off annoyed that the support isn’t there."
Office for iPad
The problem for Microsoft, he said, was that in spite of its cloud strategy, it still only supports itself and those of Microsoft resellers, rather than reaching out to third-party vendors to connect SharePoint beyond the firewall:
You’ve got to applaud that Microsoft now has a cloud strategy, but I think that they’ve shown so far that they either support themselves or support through resellers. We’ve also seen some incredible downtime over the past year, when Office 365 [with SharePoint Online] has gone done for hours at a time.
If I'm CIO of a bank or a government agency, I’d be looking at that and going ‘That’s great, guys, but its not good enough for us yet’ — you’re not providing an enterprise-ready service yet."
This brings up two of the problems that all cloud vendors must face and that Microsoft will have to tackle as well.
[Microsoft] is facing the dual problems that all cloud vendors face, notably around trust, and then, secondly, around convincing CIOs that Microsoft can provide a service that is better than CIOs can provide for themselves …."
Mobile SharePoint and Collaboration
According to McLoughlin, Microsoft is far from being able to provide that service. Though SharePoint works well for people using full versions of Office on their desktops and laptops — collaborating on Word files, Excel spreadsheets or PowerPoint slide decks — it currently falls flat in the mobile landscape.
For mobile users to collaborate, they have to dial in to a virtual private network (VPN), sometimes using a SecureID or other two-factor authentication before being able to access the contacts with whom they want to communicate.
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