Last week Microsoft divided and conquered. In one corner, the Sharepoint Conference, hosted by Bill Gates. The other, MIX08 weighed in with Steve Ballmer. I attended the Sharepoint conference but something tells me I was in the wrong place.


The Sharepoint Conference

Given the frequency we hear about Sharepoint, I was excited to attend this conference. I wanted to check out, first hand, how Microsoft was taking advantage of the buzz around enterprise collaboration. And without question, from the time I arrived, it was clear I had landed on planet Microsoft. While the keynote went on, I kept thinking, “what language are these Microsoft people talking in?” I had forgotten that Microsoft creates an entire language and then spits it out at you as if you’re supposed to think, “of course, the enterprise vault, duh!”

I looked around while this went on expecting everyone else to have the same WTF-face. Except they didn’t. Nope, they nodded. Throughout the rest of the conference, people just spat the language back at each other. I then realized that Microsoft had attracted their perfect audience. A ton of Microsoft-zealot IT people. Yup. Almost four thousand IT people who have had decades to learn the English-to-Microsoft language and they spoke it fluently. It was me that was the alien.

The downer was that no one else seemed to noticed the ton of recycled content. Their PPT slides were exactly the same as two years ago. The product was the same. Even the video that Bill showed of his last day at Microsoft was the exact same video he debuted at CES in January. It was as he thought all these IT people lived in a closet and wouldn’t have seen it. I caught up with a USA Today reporter and told him him what I thought of the whole thing. In the meantime…

Microsoft announced five things:

1. Hosted Sharepoint and Exchange

2. GEAR up (help companies make the business case)

3. Sharepoint Internal Buzz Kit (help IT train/get users excited about Sharepoint)

4. Silverlight Blueprint for Sharepoint (Silverlight is Microsoft’s Flash-like application)

5. Solution accelerators

So what really has changed in 2 years?


I wanted to see if there were any trends since the first year Sharepoint had a conference (2006). Lucky for me, Microsoft provides the text transcripts of their keynotes, so I (yes) uploaded all the test to Many Eyes and created clouds for both conferences to see if there were any differences. Here’s what stood out:

1. Enterprise search is now important. Gotta find all those Microsoft files. Maybe they’re in the “enterprise vault,” which showed up as a word.

2. Microsoft Online and Sharepoint Online. So, “Online” (head over to Mix08 if you want to know more about that).

3. “Contoso rocks” is big. At least I thought so. Microsoft sure touted them and all the innovative things that company was doing. That is, until I found out it’s a fictional company they use for demos. Duh.

4. The following important things from two years ago are no longer important: internet explorer, collaboration platform, structure, excel services, and business data. That’s SO 2006.


While all us Sharepoint-loving techies hung out in the Seattle Mall (Orange Julius anyone?), Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and our friend Guy Kawasaki were laughing it up at the MIX08 Conference in Vegas

Now I wasn’t there, mind you, but I did catch up with it online. Obviously, all the cool kids were there, while meanwhile I chatted with Sharepoint vendors who tried talking to me about “web parts” and “kpi’s.” At MIX08, Microsoft announced all sorts of stuff like:

  • IE8. Guess if “online” is the future, Microsoft better get back in the browser war.
  • Silverlight2. Microsoft’s Flash-like application. I think they should slap it on the UI of all their apps.
  • SQL Server Data Services. Thanks Amazon, great idea.

Given the seriousness that Microsoft has with Online advertising/product delivery and their competition in other space I wonder if future conferences might focus on:

  • Sharepoint Conference.
  • Xbox Conference.
  • Microhoo World.
  • Some sort of Operating System conference (Ouch, Vista).
  • Mix (everything Online. But isn’t that nearly all of the above?).
  • Aaron Strout

    Sam – great post as always. I love your style. Interesting to see just how much has changed in only two years. One important point that I’m taking away from this post… watch out for MS in the enterprise community/collaboration space!


  • Dennis McDonald

    I’d like to know more about the support Microsoft is supplying for promoting adoption of the new services within the enterprise. Is Microsoft making the assumption that IT is leading the way? Given their focus on enterprise architecture, I would suppose that would be the case, but with the “new” emphasis on externally-supplied services, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to focus on operating departments?

    Or is that what they are doing? I know it’s a trendy thing to bad-mouth corporate IT departments, but given more focus on business process change via remotely-supplied online services, can’t a case be made for bypassing the IT department in selling such services?

  • paisano

    Once again good stuff. It’s great to get an “outsiders” POV on these events and by that I mean someone who isn’t drinking the Redmond KoolAid or wearing their Crocs. I must confess that I earn my keep as a windows babysitter so I have to remain positive and hopeful that Microsoft will continue to be relevant (heck, I gave up my CNE/CNA certifications for Novell because my career drifted into ActiveDirectory waters). Still, I cannot stick my head in the ground and be blind to the bullshit they spew. Most of my IT comrads know how flawed their stuff is (server OS & especially SharePoint). We just hold onto hope that they will get their sh#$ right and stop blowing smoke up our collective arses.
    We appreciate the efforts of companies like JiveSoftware that will forever keep lumbering giants like Microsoft on their toes and in many cases off their keysters! I love that there is a ClearSpace because SharePoint can be so much more! I feel the same way about google docs, zoho and other online office apps because it has pushed Microsoft to finally get into that space after years of arrogant denial and excuses.


  • Gordon Taylor

    …”Thanks Amazon, Great Idea” – lol – that’s gold!

    And I think it says exactly why the words like ‘social’ ‘enterprise’ or even “2.0” don’t appear in either cloud.

    Despite Microsoft being desperate to be seen as one of the cool kids, They’re really only scary when they are stealing somebody else’s lunch…

  • http://Website Dmitri Gunn


    I echo your DM sentiments… where IS “Social”??? Maybe Steve feels Yahoo! is the strategic answer to this gaping hole by moving Microsoft towards a more Web-based software-as-services company: “The Windows user wants to be live. There will be a Windows Live. There will be an Office Live.”

    They have some very smart people in Redmond, but I still don’t see the value creation here especially when taking into consideration the Feb Hitwise analysis of the Yahoo! audience demographics. Scoble said it best: “If you put two turkeys together, you don’t get an eagle.”


    P.S. What on earth was “Daft Punk” all about?

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  • John Johansen

    Like you said in your Tweet, they don’t mention social anywhere. Though I don’t see Microsoft as the future of online computing, they are at least doing a decent job talking in a way that looks like a natural progression rather than something new people will have to learn.

    That’s probably an approach that many of us in the social media fishbowl should learn from.

  • Jim Storer

    Wow. To think that Scoble was born from that womb!?!?!

  • Tom Basham

    Couldn’t agree more about the two sides of MS, I wrote something myself a few weeks ago along the same lines ( Having read a bit about the Sharepoint conference it seems like its not just in the UK that the old side of MS is getting it wrong…

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  • Lawrence Liu

    Interesting fodder here, but Microsoft is the only company in the world that can help organizations effectively integrate the future, present, and past IT capabilities to solve their business problems. Re: all the newfangled social software in the market these days, it’s great to see customers experimenting with this or that, but ultimately, they’ll understand the realities of bread, butter, cheese, and mousetraps as I’ve blogged about at

    Sam, too bad we didn’t have a chance to meet and chat at SPC2008. :-) Perhaps next time.

    Lawrence Liu
    Senior Technical Product Manager for Community and Social Computing
    Microsoft SharePoint Products and Technologies

  • Lawrence Liu

    Hmmm, looks like whatever blog software is being used here didn’t handle my URL correctly. Here it is again:


  • Gordon Taylor

    “Microsoft is the only company in the world that can help organizations effectively integrate the future, present, and past IT capabilities to solve their business problems.”

    They are? Oh.

    I guess the rest of us should all just pack it in and go home, then 😉

  • Lawrence Liu

    Perhaps “only” was too strong/exclusive of a word. I should have written “best.” And yes, I truly believe that. Sure, we have plenty of competitors, and I especially respect companies like Jive, who keep us on our toes. And in terms of helping our customers succeed, we recognize that we can’t do it all, which is why we have such a broad and diverse partner ecosystem. So, overall, I’d come back to the fact that we/Microsoft is in the *best* position to help organizations effectively integrate the future, present, and past.

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  • Lawrence Liu

    A recent example of how Microsoft is best at integrating the future (cool, new stuff shown at Mix08), the present (proven, useful stuff shown at SharePoint Conference, and the past (valuable, if not priceless, content/artifacts from the Library of Congress):

  • sam

    Hey Lawrence,

    Clearly Microsoft is the “best at integrating the future, present and past” like you just said in this comment.

    Also, in the comment above that one where you said, that Microsoft is the “only company in the world that can help organizations effectively integrate the future, present, and past.”

    Oh right, and all the stuff on Shel’s post and over at analyst Mike Gotta’s blog

    Sounds like you’re trying to convince someone with your talking points. But whom? Are you worried about something?

  • Joining Dots

    You were not the only person frustrated that Microsoft chose to clash the two conferences. I’d have loved to have attended both (and would have if they were run back to back). I chose the SharePoint conference. Why? My paying customers want help with getting stuff done, and that involves leveraging an available platform that they have invested in. The content was disappointing but the networking and hall conversations were great, leading to a couple of business opportunities. MIX had better sessions and the ‘cool’ crowd but I doubt I would have walked away with new business.

    I’m surprised you felt you were the alien in the crowd. I spoke to a lot of people and most were also frustrated/disappointed with the content.

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  • Lawrence Liu

    Me, worried? Nope. I have more than a billion reasons not to. :-) My primary objective with doing a bit of whirlwind commenting on a few blogs a couple of weeks back was to put a bit of a reality check into the nice little echo chamber that you’ve got going on here.