It's not exactly ground-breaking, but Jim Murphy, a research director in Gartner's web and cloud group, thinks Microsoft is trying to lure its SharePoint users into the cloud, despite the number of enterprises that are still using it on-premises.

Speaking at this morning’s session on the future of SharePoint at Gartner’s Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit in London, Murphy reassured attendees that there is still plenty of time before time runs out on the on-premises version.

Now or Later

In fact, if you weren’t aware of it before, mainstream support for the latest version of SharePoint —SharePoint 2013 — will last at least until 2018. If the example of Windows XP is anything to go by, you will be able to buy more time until you finally get it together enough to move on.

That said, Murphy points out that users will ultimately have to do something. Over the course of an hour long presentation, he carried out a number of polls among the users in the room to determine attitudes around a number of SharePoint issues.

In response to the question of how satisfied they were with their current SharePoint deployments, a considerable majority (around 63 percent) said they were moderately satisfied, with only small percentages registering either extreme satisfaction or dissatisfaction. 

This tied in to a second question that asked users what they would do if Microsoft dropped the on-premise version after its next release in either 2015 or 2016. More than 50 percent said that they would stick with SharePoint and move to the cloud, although a telling 14 percent said that they would dump it. A further 30 percent said they would stick with it and limit its role.

One other question revealed that the vast majority of respondents were cautious, if not reluctant to move to the cloud over privacy and security concerns. In response to this question, 74 percent cited security and privacy as major issues while 14 percent rated it as troublesome.

SharePoint Online Strategy

OK, so the poll was limited by the number in the room. But Murphy points out that it corresponds with Gartner’s findings in the wider SharePoint community. It also reflects the way Microsoft is developing its strategy for SharePoint Online, which as underlined to a certain extent at the SharePoint conference in March this year.

Taking a number of quotes from senior Microsoft strategists, all point not only to the development of SharePoint for the cloud, but also to Microsoft's hesitancy to move everything there. Jeff Teper, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Microsoft, told the SharePoint conference audience there will likely be a new version of SharePoint and Exchange Server in 2015. "But I think we can do a better job in the cloud," he said, adding later, "The cloud is the key."

Teper did not say that the new version of SharePoint will be cloud-only, but stressed that Microsoft is encouraging people to make the move.

Persuasion, Not Force

Murphy also noted that as Microsoft moves to the cloud, SharePoint will become an inseparable, embedded part of Office 365's fabric.

Learning Opportunities

Microsoft, however, is not forcing users to the cloud but luring them, starting with one or two of the following releases:

  • Office Graph
  • Social Productivity with Yammer
  • Office 365 Video Portal
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Office for iPad/iPhone
  • User-Based Subscription Pricing

With the exception of the Video Portal, which doesn’t appear to have a definite timeline, all these products have received a lot of attention in the past few months.

SharePoint In The Cloud

So what do users want to do with SharePoint in the cloud?According to a further poll taken during the conference, the most promising aspect of cloud-based SharePoint is as an integrated comprehensive suit for office productivity, collaboration, portals, content management and anything else it can do.

There is a lot to be done yet, before this vision can be realized.Leaving aside considerations around privacy and security, there are other issues that need to be overcome like issues around custom development or integration with non-Microsoft/.NET systems.

Because SharePoint Online is controlled entirely by SharePoint it may also limit the ability to innovate and differentiate between different environments, while it is also possible that SharePoint on-premises will be left behind.

Again, there is time to manage this transition. The next release will be supported until at least 2025, while Microsoft asserts that it will continue to support on-premises SharePoint as long as the market demands it. That said, new features and enhancements will be mostly "cloud-first," and not all will be available to on-premises customers. 

Title image by Asa Smith Aarons / all rights reserved.