March 04, 2013, 5:00 PM — The new 2013 version of SharePoint, Microsoft's all-purpose enterprise collaboration server, packs many new and improved features, including a redesign of the user interface, the addition of SkyDrive Pro for enhanced storage and sync of documents, better task management, a revamped search engine and sharper e-discovery features.
SharePoint, used primarily by enterprises to build intranets, public sites, forums, blogs and wikis, as well as for storing, searching and managing documents, now generates about $2 billion in annual revenue, and Microsoft is naturally pushing this new version hard.
However, experts say gaps and questions remain around key areas such as mobile and social.
With more viable alternatives to SharePoint increasingly coming to market, CIOs need to take a critical look at the product and make sure they will get what they need from Microsoft.
"There are gaps and people have started to look for alternatives. CIOs need to meet with their Microsoft reps and be comfortable it'll deliver what they need in a timeframe that's useful," says Forrester Research analyst John Rymer.
The SharePoint Mobile Challenges
In recent years the workplace has been invaded by tablets and smartphones, and giving employees mobile access to enterprise applications has become imperative. But SharePoint lags in this area.
"Microsoft hasn't given much attention to mobility on SharePoint, and there doesn't seem to be a sense of urgency around it, which is bewildering," says Gartner analyst Jeffrey Mann.
Currently, Microsoft provides a SharePoint NewsFeed application, designed to give users access to the people and documents they follow, for Windows Phone and iOS.
A Windows 8 version is due by the end of the second calendar quarter of this year, and later on Android.
Microsoft also has a Windows Phone application for SkyDrive Pro, the cloud storage component of SharePoint. Versions of that application for Windows 8 and iOS are due in this years first quarter.
For Mann, these apps are very narrow in scope and functionality. You can only do a small subset of what SharePoint offers with these, he says.
Forrester's Rymer holds a similar view, calling these apps "pretty limited initiatives" and saying Microsoft needs "full, no compromise support for Android and iOS -- period" in order to provide adequate mobile access to SharePoint.
He believes Microsoft is conflicted internally about fully supporting SharePoint -- and Office in general -- on non-Windows mobile OSes, in particular iOS, due to competitive concerns. "The last thing Microsoft wants to do is help Apple succeed," he says. "How do you create a policy given those two competing interests?"
The SharePoint Social Media Challenges