Larry Cannell

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Larry Cannell
Research Director
2 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Larry Cannell is a research director for Gartner Research, in Gartner's Burton IT1 Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Cannell covers search, content management, collaborative workspaces, as well as open-source collaboration and content solutions. Read Full Bio

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Microsoft is Running Two Office Trains

by Larry Cannell  |  April 23, 2013  |  Comments Off

Microsoft is accelerating the development of Office (at least, the development of Office 365). That is the overall tone of a recent article by Mary Jo Foley ("How Microsoft is speeding up the Office trains") that quotes Jeff Teper, corporate Vice President, Office Servers and Services and Adam Pisoni, Co-Founder of Yammer and now a general manager of Engineering in Microsoft. If you’ve followed Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) coverage of SharePoint and Yammer, much of what is discussed in this article will not be a surprise. The most notable points are:

  • The difference between  Office-cloud and Office-software will soon be apparent*
  • How Microsoft views the relationship of SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange

The Difference Between Office-cloud and Office-software Will Soon Be Apparent

Cloud services (marketed as Office 365) are clearly where Microsoft is focusing its Office server efforts. Foley quotes Teper as saying, "some features may be only available in the service" and "the idea is the cloud is where you get your best experience." Although, Teper’s language is guarded in terms of specific features and the timing for when customers may see them, Microsoft is clearly placing its bets with Office 365 through more frequent updates of the service and hinting that there may be significant features that will only be available there.

Microsoft once touted their Office server products as being developed software-first (create the software first and then use it as the basis of an online service run by Microsoft). Last year, Microsoft said their latest wave of Office servers was developed cloud-first. However, Yammer is ONLY available via the cloud (you cannot buy a software version). Could we see a day when Microsoft removes any doubt and markets these products (Office-cloud and Office-software) separately? That may be a stretch. Nevertheless, Office-cloud is where Microsoft sees the future of their communication and collaboration offerings.

The Relationship of SharePoint, Yammer, and Exchange

Although couched in terms of organizational alignment, Teper’s comments regarding the positioning of SharePoint, Yammer and Exchange should get the attention of many Microsoft customers: "We think of Exchange, SharePoint and Yammer now as one product." Until this time, Microsoft has been saying that SharePoint and Yammer are being developed as a single product. Teper suggested Microsoft was looking at future cross-server experiences during his keynote address at the SharePoint Conference last November. In addition, new features in SharePoint and Exchange 2013 (such as synchronizing tasks and site mailboxes) hint at the aspirations of Microsoft Office product planners to provide a more unified experience. Architecturally, there is still significant work necessary to bring these three products together. For example, the unification of tasks across Exchange and SharePoint 2013 is still done via synchronization rather than using a central location to store tasks.

Given the faster pace in which Office 365 is being developed, a blended experience may become the most notable difference with on-premises software versions of SharePoint and Exchange. We can see small signs of this happening today. Since there is no software version of Yammer, Microsoft can only offer on-premises social networking capabilities through SharePoint 2013. While similar, SharePoint’s and Yammer’s social networking experiences are quite different. In addition, although Microsoft sells cloud versions of Exchange and SharePoint (Exchange Online and SharePoint Online), the two brands are mostly hidden in their general Office 365 offerings (SharePoint and Exchange are still there, but are not visible to the end user).

Nevertheless, we recommend that enterprises continue to view SharePoint and Yammer as separate products that may become more integrated over time. Tighter integration with Exchange is a longer-term aspiration. It could take years for Microsoft to entirely merge the products (if it happens at all), particularly for Office-software.

* By the way (if you haven’t noticed by now) on this blog I refer to the version of Microsoft Office delivered via the cloud as "Office-cloud" and the version of Office provided by software installed on-premises as "Office-software." If I don’t, then I just confuse myself.

Where you can learn more

You can learn more about SharePoint 2013 and Yammer by watching a webinar I recently gave. A free recording of it is here (available until August 2013). There is no charge for the recording, but registration is required.

In addition, here is a list of research covering SharePoint and Office 2013 available to Gartner for Technical (GTP) subscribers:

If your company is a Gartner customer, you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is, ask Gartner

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