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SharePoint Online or On Premises: Who is Microsoft Betting On?

This year's SharePoint conference is now over, and as people return for Las Vegas there is time to reflect on the many announcements made at the show.

The keynote speech, kicked off by Senior Director of Product Marketing for SharePoint Jared Spataro, touched on a few topics before addressing Microsoft’s purchase of Yammer — something everyone was keen to learn more about. Ever since Microsoft paid US$ 1.2 billion for the company people have been wondering just how it was going to integrate with Microsoft’s flagship enterprise product.

After the keynote, it is fair to say a lot of people were still somewhat puzzled.

Jeff Tepper, the "Godfather" of SharePoint, took to the stage to talk about Yammer and what Microsoft planned to do with it. He talked about Yammer being leaders in enterprise social, in having a unique approach to development that Microsoft could learn from, and their approaches to adoption. So far, so good.

He was then joined by guys from the Yammer team who talked about just how the product was going to integrate. SharePoint will sport a "Share with Yammer" button, allowing SharePoint content to be, in effect, pushed to Yammer. This process then works the other way by allowing Yammer to access content on Skydrive Pro, which can be anything that lives in your SharePoint environment.

In the longer term Yammer will be integrated more fully with SharePoint Online, with feeds and documents combining and a single sign on experience emerging. Yammer will soon be included with SharePoint Online and Office 365 plans, and in the even longer term might be subsumed into SharePoint Online altogether.

Integration with SharePoint Online

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It is this tight integration with SharePoint Online, at the expense of SharePoint on premises, that could be the most interesting (and controversial) aspect of all of this. At the time of the Yammer purchase Kurt Delbene, President of the Microsoft Office division, had this to say:

"Yammer provides Microsoft best-in-class enterprise social networking service, as well as a phenomenal list of talented employees that know how to deliver rapid innovation in the cloud. Yammer will be an important addition to Microsoft's cloud services, and this acquisition underscores our commitment to helping customers move to the cloud.

I don't think in a fully on-premises world we can imagine moving the cloud capabilities into the on premises. It is a cloud-first offering.”

These quotes, and the SPC12 keynote, provide a fascinating insight into Microsoft's roadmap for SharePoint. If they are happy to buy a US$ 1 billion third-party app and only integrate it fully with Office 365 and SharePoint Online, how much money are they willing to spend on their own continued development of SharePoint on premises?

A Two-Tier Approach

Everything points to a future where Microsoft adopts a two-tier approach to SharePoint. If the likes of Yammer will only be making a full appearance in SharePoint Online, does that not leave us with one product for on premises customers and a potentially very different product for cloud customers? We seem to be looking for the first time at a shift in roles, with cloud customers no longer the poor relation.

When Office 365 first launched, SharePoint Online very much seemed like a cut-down version of its big brother. It was missing significant functionality, most notably "Business Connectivity Services." This feature has since been added, along with many other smaller incremental upgrades. The move to Office 365 branding and SharePoint Online 2013 is a continuation of these improvements.

Microsoft talked at SPC12 about the days of "big bang" releases being over and the future for cloud services being smaller but more regular updates. This seems to put the momentum with the cloud option, and it is SharePoint on premises that will start to feel like the reduced offering.

It isn't strange in itself for Microsoft to prioritize the cloud. They certainly aren't the only firm moving their enterprise offering in this direction. Indeed it is all very on trend. It is just interesting to see a glimpse of just how serious Microsoft is.

What next? The desktop version of Word feeling like a feature limited application compared to its "Office Web App" relation? Maybe one day soon.

Image courtesy of Dudarev Mikhail (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Chris has a thing or two to say about SharePoint. To read more, check out his 5 Things Not to Do with Your New SharePoint Intranet
 

About the Author

Chris Wright is the founder of the Scribble Agency, a technology copywriting agency based in London. He writes extensively on SharePoint, web trends, and general IT topics, both in print and on the web. He is also a feature writer for Web Designer magazine and SmartPhone Essentials, and a regular contributor to nothingbutSharePoint and CMSWire.

 
 
 
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