Microsoft Enterprise Search Product Comparison

I’m using the following table in the Enterprise Search workshops I am currently delivering on behalf of Microsoft. People seem to be finding it useful so I thought I’d post it here. It is an expanded version of the table you can find on Microsoft’s web site (see end of post for link). The table is not a comprehensive list of all features and aims to highlight the differences between each product from a search perspective. (SharePoint Server 2007 has additional features not listed here.)

(Click to view)

Windows SharePoint Services and Search Server 2008 Express have identical licensing requirements. They can only be installed on Windows Server 2003 SP1+ or later. That means you will need a Windows Server license but nothing more. If you perform a basic installation of either, you get the database included with the Windows license – MSDE for Windows SharePoint Services, SQL Server 2005 Express Edition for Search Server 2008 Express. If you perform an advanced installation of either, you can opt to use the full SQL Server product instead.

(Tip: You can also use SQL Server 2005 Express Edition with Windows SharePoint Services, but you have to download and install it first, and then use the Advanced Installation to tell Windows SharePoint Services to use it – SQL Server 2005 Express Edition was released after Windows SharePoint Services and has replaced MSDE.)

Search Server 2008 licensing has not yet been announced by Microsoft. Given it is effectively a subset of SharePoint Server 2007, I’d guess it will be a per-server license but we’ll have to wait and see.

SharePoint Server 2007 requires a per-server license and per-client access licences (CALs) for internal use. There are two versions – Standard Edition and Enterprise Edition.

Search Server 2008 is due to be released during the first half of 2008. The new features being introduced (you can download the release candidate if you want to play with them) will also be made available to both editions of SharePoint Server 2007.

If the FAST acquisition does go ahead, expect to see Microsoft’s search strategy expand deeper into enterprise information assets.

Related blog posts:

References:

Google Reader For CRM

Steve Rubel on his Micro Persuasion blog has an interesting post describing how to use Google Reader for knowledge management – Becoming a Knowledge Management Ninja with Google Reader.

Steve provides some interesting tips and tricks well worth reading. Looking at a more specific scenario, you could apply his advice to create a CRM (customer-relationship management) system using Google Reader. One of the biggest challenges facing many organisations is that the Internet and, more specifically, Web 2.0 tools are helping to make customers more informed than employees. Traditional CRM systems seem to be more about generating reports than relationships – forecasting, planning and reviewing targets. Creating replicable and measurable processes to ensure consistent interactions. Great in a rational world. But we don’t live in one. Does your CRM warn you about the blog post just published describing how to hack your best-selling product? Does it show you what your customers have been writing about you on public forums?

Keeping track of news feeds could help ensure that employees are as, if not more, informed than customers. And that is likely to go a long way to improving relationships and increasing sales and retention… Of course, this may require an adjustment to processes. Whilst customers have become more informed thanks to the Internet, too many organisations are ensuring their employees become less informed by banning access to the very tools that customers use – Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, Google, the Internet…

Technorati tags: CRM

Facebook Lessons

As Facebook continues to introduce new features to fanfare and/or verbal warfare, the reactions provide a rich source of research. Social networking technologies are disrupting established behaviours and ways of communicating. When organisations start to go down the Web 2.0 road, applying lessons learned will help make the journey a little less bumpy.

The latest bruhaha is over the Facebook Beacon feature, described over on Silicon Valley Insider – How to Solve Facebook’s Beacon Problem. Last year, the concern was over privacy, as reported in the New York Times – When Information Becomes T.M.I. And if you’re interested in this stuff, Danah Boyd has a rich repository of writings, including an essay in response to NYTs article – Facebook’s “Privacy Trainwreck”: Exposure, Invasion, and Drama.

Personally, I’m more concerned about being labelled an old fart as of next month.

Filed under: Social Networks

Technorati tags: Social Networks; Social Computing; Web 2.0

Microsoft Enterprise Search Announcements

Yesterday, Microsoft announced some changes to their enterprise search strategy. To read all about it, go to www.microsoft.com/enterprisesearch. Here’s the summary:

New Products

Server-based enterprise search solutions are now available in three flavours:

  • Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
  • Microsoft Search Server 2008
  • Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express Edition

Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS) is the full blown platform for information and knowledge solutions that includes features for information management, collaboration, portal and indexing/search

Microsoft Search Server 2008 (MSS) is a dedicated search server. It’s the same indexing and search technologies provided within MOSS 2007 but without all the other features. In other words, if you’re using MOSS, you do not also need to buy MSS. MSS used to be known as the mouthful that was Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for Search. MSS does not have the full set of search and indexing features provided within MOSS. Specifically, you do not get People search (dependent on MOSS for providing user profiles and MySites) and you do not get the Business Data Catalog (indexing structured applications – dependent on MOSS for managing application integration and authentication)

Microsoft Search Server 2008 Express Edition (MSSE) is a limited version of MSS that is being made available as a free download. Yup, Free. No licenses required. If you choose to use SQL Server Express as the back-end database (also free), then the only license you will require is for the operating system – Windows Server 2003. MSSE has all the features of MSS. The only limit is that it is a single server solution. If you wanted to scale it to multiple servers (e.g. dedicated server for indexing, dedicated and load-balanced servers for processing search queries), then you would need to upgrade to MSS.

New Features

Also in the announcement, but less easy to spot, is the introduction of some new features within enterprise search:

  • Federated Search Connectors
  • Streamlined Installation
  • Unified Administration Dashboard

Federated Search connectors will enable you to submit a search query to multiple different indexes – both local and online – and bring back results grouped by the different index. (It is not possible to bring them all back together as a single results set because different indexes apply different ranking algorithms). You can build your own or download add-ons from the new Search Connectors Gallery. They are not yet available, but partners listed include: Business Objects, EMC Documentum, Endeca, FAST ESP, Handshake Software, OpenText, SAS, and Symantec

The Streamlined Installation process (think wizards) should make it a lot easier to set-up and configure an enterprise search solution using Microsoft technologies.

The Unified Administration Dashboard will provide a better user interface (UI) for administration and maintenance. Currently, within MOSS 2007, the search settings are somewhat buried in the Central Administration console. The new dashboard should make it much easier and quicker to keep track of your search infrastructure

What’s the deal?

There is a fourth product in this Microsoft-specific playground that also warrants a mention, the underlying platform that serves MOSS 2007 – Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). With this announcement, organisations planning information management and collaborative solutions have some new choices:

  • If you want to build an internal enterprise platform for information management and collaboration, MOSS 2007 remains the product of choice if you go down the Microsoft route (naturally there are other vendors also in this space)
  • If you are less concerned about enterprise stuff and are more interested in building agile collaborative workspaces that operate independently of each other, chances are you would be looking at just using Windows SharePoint Services (WSS). By adding on Search Server Express Edition, you would now be able to search across all of those different workspaces using a single query. (WSS alone means you can only search within one site at a time.) This provides a rich solution with no extra licence fees required other than Windows Server 2003 (WSS is provided as part of Windows Server 2003)
  • If you are not, for whatever reason, using or planning to use MOSS 2007, you can whack Search Server Express into your environment for minimal cost. No limits on what you index, as long as one server can cope with the load
  • And what about Search Server 2008? Well, if the Express edition is not enough and you need to scale your search infrastructure, you will need to upgrade. But if you are that serious about your search solution, chances are you’ll be interested in social networking (people search) and collective intelligence (combining structured and unstructured sources of information). I’d wager that route will lead to MOSS rather than MSS although it will depend on the different licensing costs involved versus the calculated benefits

Introducing Federated Search Connectors is a big deal, at least it will be for the customers I have been working with. At last, Microsoft is providing a solution that acknowledges there is life outside The One Index. (It’s similar to the early days of Active Directory – The One Directory – later being extended, thanks to Identity Management solutions, to connect and synchronise with other directories.) As the volume of information being indexed continues to grow – internally as well as out on the Internet – it becomes much harder to maintain high relevance within results from a single index. The most effective solution is to send a search query across different indexes that can be individually tailored to serve up the best possible results.

The only thing you can actually get your hands on today is the release candidate for Search Server 2008 Express edition. The new features are not yet available for MOSS 2007. When will they be? Well that’s for Microsoft to announce but I think we can expect to see updates available in early 2008. No vendor wants its free products to have more features than the licensed versions…

I should include a disclaimer: I’m an independent consultant running Enterprise Search workshops funded by, and on behalf of, Microsoft. I’ll be delving into some of the finer details within this announcement within future events.

[Update: 09/11/07] The announcement has also been covered over on the product group’s blog: http://blogs.msdn.com/enterprisesearch/

Filed under: Microsoft Search

Technorati tags: SharePoint 2007; MOSS 2007; Enterprise Search

Facebook Collaboration

Good post over on O’Reilly Rador – Working in Facebook – talking about how groups are using Facebook to co-ordinate activities and how the process is just natural to those growing up with Web 2.0 tools and why email is playing second fiddle (see related post – When will IM come of age?) Favourite quote:

For those who have active community within it, [Facebook] is this generation’s Lotus 1-2-3

Hecks, anything that compares to Lotus 1-2-3 in terms of adoption warrants attention, even if you do have to be a ‘luddite’ to know why ๐Ÿ™‚

Related post: When will IM come of age

Google and Microsoft looking alike

Interesting post over on Nick Carr’s blog – The loose ties that bind – talking about Google’s strategy to capture 100% of users’ data and the possible implications.

The Google strategy is simple – make storing your data online the default behaviour:

“…As we move toward the ‘Store 100%’ reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local machine copy serves more like cache…”

This approach makes a lot of sense and probably worries a few of their competitors (makes you wonder why they didn’t buy Flickr and Del.icio.us…). Increasingly there are far more benefits to having your information stored online than having it stored locally on a computer – instant accessibility from any device for starters. But you still want to be able to access that information locally without always being connected to the Internet. For example, I don’t want to require an Internet connection to review my calendar or contacts, regardless of the device I’m using (currently they are stored on my laptop, PDA and mobile phone, with synchronisation software between the laptop and other devices).

But this approach has both pros and cons.

The benefits are simple – having all your information stored online in one location makes sharing data across applications and devices much much easier. There can be both productivity (reducing clicks to complete tasks, instant synchronisation across devices) and intelligence (new insights from analysing data, mash-ups that combine data sources) gains that are simply not possible when data is stuck in separate silos, be they software or hardware barriers.

The costs are also quite simple – the more you rely on integrated products and benefit from them (those productivity and intelligence gains), the higher the cost of switching to alternatives. You become dependent on the vendor who provides you with convenience.

Google isn’t the first to exploit this approach. Microsoft has long been criticised for integrating products and leading customers down the dependency route, initially using proprietary tools and formats and latterly using integration between desktop and (web) server products like SharePoint. Will using the Web and open standards make the situation any more palatable to those critics?

Microsoft Digital Day – Part 2

iStock_tunnel1

This post covers the second half of the Microsoft Digital Day event held on 20th October 2006. The morning sessions were covered in Part 1.

In game advertising; what the trends are in gaming, why games are such a powerful media, how marketers utilise dynamic ad platforms and how effective these can be

Presenter: Mitchell Davis – Massive

(Massive produces in-game advertising and was recently acquired by Microsoft)

I’ve always wondered when in-game advertising and product placement would begin to take-off… it seems it has. It is a logical step as people spend more and more time inside virtual worlds.

Mitchell produced a slide showing game software growth. Online and wireless games are currently way below console games but have already overtaken PC games and are growing in popularity

Graphics are reaching a standard where the virtual world is becoming realistic. The upcoming Xbox game Splinter Cell has taken over 100 developers over 2 years to build, costing $25m. But console games are increasingly looking like replacements for movies. The game Grand Theft Auto achieved $359m in sales, the equivalent of Spiderman the Movie, released in the same year. And people spend far longer playing the game than watching the movie…

…and game players do not multi-task, a big difference to how we often watch TV. When playing a game, you have to be 100% focused on the task or you lose/die (depending on the game). Hence ads are far more likely to be picked up by eyeballs inside a game than on the TV.

Online games are beginning to clock up more hours than traditional console games. In the online game World of Warcraft, some people are now spending over 100 hours per week on it. (At this point, I had a thought – this is like The Matrix in reverse. We are actively plugging ourselves into the grid to the point we could rent out our physical shell because we are barely using it.)

Massive has approached in-game advertising in a similar way to traditional methods. Instead of creating an ad that is permanently embedded in the game (e.g. as you reach the final stage of the level where you have to kill a zombie coming out of a tunnel, the tunnel always has a poster above it advertising a coffee brand), ads are run as campaigns. The ads can be placed in different slots throughout the game, for defined periods of time. They can be geographically targeted (including language-specific ads) and even do time-dependent advertising (i.e. only show the advert at certain times of day within the time zone where the game is being played).

Mitchell described a test campaign that was recently completed. The campaign saw a 14% increase in brand favourability from those exposed to the ad versus the control group, a 11% increase in purchase intent and a 12% increase in ad likeability. The audience was redominantly 13 – 34 year old men (95%)…

…and that, I think, is a challenge for the advertising industry. Tom Peters and others have been talking for an eternity about the need to target women, because over 80% of purchasing decisions are made by women. Not many computer games are currently targeted at women.

But to finish, Mitchell dropped a great quote:

“Whether the game is pirated or not, they still see the advertising!”

It sums up why advertising is becoming increasingly attractive to software companies who sell proprietary software. If you can earn revenue from advertising instead of software licences, the piracy problem just disappears. It could also be a potential business model for community-built open source software.

Traditional Media embracing digital

Presenter: Simon Waldman – Director of Digital Strategy and Development, Guardian Media Group

I am quite a fan of The Guardian because I think they have done a great job of embracing the Internet and emerging trends influencing how we consume news. And this session summed up how they have succeeded.

The Guardian’s mission is “To be the world’s leading liberal voice”. In other words, to go beyond being a physical newspaper you pick up.

One of the experiments they ran last year was to create podcasts with Ricky Gervais (he who created The Office). It led to over 4 million downloads and brought links to the news site from unexpected places – lots came from iTunes, podcast networks, sites like Technorati… all these people had never before visited The Guardian web site.

The attitude at The Guardian is that content must be high quality, distinctive and easy to find. The majority of challenges are around that last point. If you aren’t easy to find, then you are going to disappear – and being easy to find means being out there on the web.

Simon described the 3 characteristics that have emerged from the Internet (you could try and argue Web 2.0 but let’s not):

  • people want to create and communicate, ideally both at the same time
  • people want to control their media – what they want, when (and where) they want it
  • people want to challenge the established order – enough is enough

…and people will do it whether we let them or not. (Whilst the ‘we’ referred to mainstream media, it could equally be applied to governments too – I think (hope) politics is going to be disrupted beyond recognition over the next 10 years)

Simon gave a simple and incredibly clear example to demonstrate the change. People are wrong to compare Wikipedia with Britannica – Wikipedia isn’t aiming to be the same as Britannica, it is 180 degrees to the left of it. Encyclopedias are top-down authoritarian. Wikipedia takes a different approach and serves a different purpose.

Simon talked through some of the different ideas that have been tried by The Guardian:

Obituaries page: The Guardian opened up a section called ‘Other Lives‘ – anyone can write an entry for someone they know who has died, regardless of the so-called importance that would normally determine who gets an entry.

Commentary blog: On the Commentary section, anyone can participate and leave comments – journalists are contributing alongside everybody else rather than being positioned as some kind of authority on the site

Working across channels: The Guardian has a travel site – Been There – people contribute with their experiences, and The Guardian then rolls up weekly to highlight a specific location within the newspaper.

And they have been looking into the world of video-reporting, kitting out journalists with camcorders to capture moments that you would either miss or would struggle to report well in writing. A sample was given – camcorder footage of Cherie Blair in the audience at the recent Labour Party conference. You had to see it to believe it (which I think demonstrates his point). ๐Ÿ™‚

The session closed with an audience question – how do we currently consume news: Online only = 14%, Print only = 8%, Mix of both = 78%. Not surprised at the numbers. The web brings about new ways of consuming content, but in some scenarios, the best format has already been invented – paper.

WPF Reader offering a highly-differentiated visual experiences

Presenter: Michael Cooper – Director Strategic Relationships, Advanced Reading Technologies, Microsoft

This session focused on the New York Times Reader that has been recently announced.

In a nutshell, the reader does a better job than a browser at managing news layout to fit different screen sizes, and to navigate content. There are no scrollbars – all navigation is based on cursors (e.g. left – right moves between stories, up – down scrolls through the story. Columns are added or removed (and news stories repositioned) depending on screen size.

The New York Times web site currently averages 4 page views per session. The aim of the reader is to increase the time the reader spends on the site, to create more advertising opportunities. Ad placement within the reader is dynamically driven – the ad message can be optimised based on the story it is displayed within (click through goes to different locations depending on the message – e.g. an insurance company can advertise different types of insurance in different sections. Where you click on the ad affects the type of insurance promoted and forms to be completed). The layout is also dynamic in that it can change as you go back/forward – the same page can display different ads in different places.

In trials with the reader, page views per session jumped to 80.

I have mixed feelings about this reader. The navigation elements are similar to the offline experience provided by AvantGo, where you can synchronise content from multiple different sources and read it offline. It certainly demonstrated well, but I’m not sure that I would use it. It would be useful to be able to download a digital edition of a newspaper, but I just want a simple link off the web site – ‘download offline’ – where I can quickly sync the content to a device when I want to… and I don’t want the whole news, I want to choose sections I am going to want to read. And I don’t always just want one paper, I want a mash-up of the different sources I like to read. You get halfway there with news feeds, except most news sites insist on only doing partial feeds which are rendered useless when you are offline. And to finish, the ability to view in newspaper format is only suited to a laptop or tabletPC (i.e. you need a reasonable amout of screen space) – useful when I am at home or in the office, but not when out and about travelling. Mobile devices need a different layout to newspaper style.

Subscriptions are also broken when it comes to newspapers. When I’m travelling on public transport to meetings, I will often buy a newspaper at the station to read on the journey. But I don’t buy the same news paper every day. That’s easy to do when you pay for the item on the spot. But the web sites want you to pay monthly subscriptions – those subscriptions add up to a lot of money if you aggregate all the news sources that you read… and the cheeky publishers still push adverts at you, littering the page and slowing down page load times, even when you’ve paid to access the content…

Still some work to be done in this area…

Microsoftโ€™s vision, strategy and commitment to the online advertising industry

Presenter: Steve Ballmer – CEO, Microsoft Corporation

Some of the comments made in this presentation align with a lot of what was said in the Gartner podcast recently published.

Microsoft is very much repositioning away from the enterprise perspective (much of the last 10 years has been spent persuading businesses that Microsoft is an enterprise-level supplier) to ‘from the end user to the enterprise’. This covers the two traditional areas – desktop and server – plus the two new focus areas – entertainment/devices and online services.

Whilst the ‘G’ word wasn’t directly mentioned, Steve compared Microsoft’s current search position to that of their spreadsheet position 15 years ago, when Excel was challenging the established leader – Lotus 1-2-3. (Oh how the memories flooded back, there wasn’t much you couldn’t do with the ‘/’ key in Lotus 1-2-3). The focus back in the early 1990s was on building a suite of applications (Microsoft was simultaneously targeting the word processor market, then dominated by Word Perfect). Fast forward to today, and search is broadening out into a set of investments, spanning software and devices, digital advertising and a ‘Live’ platform on which to build it all.

Steve talked through the dawn ’til dusk scenario referenced in other sessions – mapping the various Microsoft products and services to the different activities in the home and at work.

If you think the above slide looks like Microsoft overload, you would not be alone. One of the audience questions started with a reference to “the slightly scary 16-hours a day with Microsoft slide…” ๐Ÿ™‚

Steve closed his speech with an overview of the plans for AdCenter and a review of statistics from the various services. Some snippets: 243m Messenger users, 465m unique MSN visitors, 60m Spaces, 261m LiveMail users.

Some interesting comments cropped up during the Q and A. Steve’s favourite future scenario – being able to tune in and watch his old high school’s TV channel covering a live basketball game. This is the potential when the Internet enables TV to move to millions of channels. (It’s nice to hear a positive view on having more channels to choose from instead of the usual negative assumptions.)

This post is filed in the Library under Research > Talks

Technorati Tag: Microsoft Digital Day

Microsoft Digital Day – Part 1

Last Friday I attended the Microsoft Digital Day conference, held in London. The day was targeted at the advertising industry and had a great line up of speakers. Here are some notes and thoughts scribbled on the day. I’ve broken them across two posts due to length. This post covers the morning sessions.

First things first, it was interesting to not the line of products listed under the title ‘Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions:

  • MSN
  • Windows Live
  • XBox
  • Office

Yes, the last one sneaking in on the act is Office, not just Office Live but Office whole.

The changing online media landscape, industry trends and our business and market vision for the UK

Presenter: Steve Berkowitz – Senior Vice President, Online Services Group

The session began with an overview of the advertising industry, its size compared to the software industry (it is 4x larger if you are wondering) and the percentage of online advertising today and its future predicted growth. Three-quarters of the UK now has broadband, and 28% of consumer media time is now spent online.

Increasingly consumers are looking to access services for free leading to advertising being the model to generate revenue. Microsoft is building up services to be able to better target users based on preferences gleaned from the use of online services (i.e. Live). The big question to answer – how can you get advertising in a position where it is being considered content?

This is an interesting question that warrants more thought. The reason Google has scored so well with its model of adverts is that they are not annoying, just simple text boxes that sit at the peripheral of your vision. If I am searching for a specific product, more often these days I will deliberately click on one of the sponsored links because it is for the company I am actually looking for. Online news and magazines, on the other hand, seem to have defaulted to those incredibly annoying ads that still manage to pop up in front of the text, forcing you to locate and close a tiny little X in the top right corner to get rid of the damn thing. How on earth that sort of advertising leads to purchases is beyond me. Sure, occasionally I accidentally click on the ad trying to close it, but that just annoys me even more to the point I will actively not purchase from the company responsible. And what do they register? A positive click through result. Doh!

Steve described there being three ways that consumers enter the Internet:

  • Search
  • Portals
  • Communities

MSN is being positioned as the pre-programmed entertainment experience (portal). Live.com is about entering through mail, search, community….). Microsoft is focusing on building audience. Steve positioned software and services as being a combination of technology, user experience and business models. Microsoft’s Live initiative is about building a platform for services (messaging, storage…) and making the experience of the web consistent across any and all devices.

If you want to get an idea of how Microsoft is building that platform, check out Operations: the new secret source, by Tim O’Reilly. Wired also ran an article on this subject, looking at Google’s activities – The Information Factories

When culture meets technology and when technology meets culture – How consumers’ behaviour is changing as a result of technological and cultural developments

Presenter: Anne Kirah – Senior Design Anthropologist MSN Advertising and Trade Marketing Research

Anne has an interesting role at Microsoft, observing how people use technology in their everyday lives. This is sooo important. If you design products purely from within your organisation, particularly as a technology company, you will be in danger of building for the market of geeks, which on planet Earth is much smaller than the total population. Andrew Till (presenting at the Cambridge Technology Management symposium) described this same phenomena at Motorola, where engineers are actively discouraged from using the products they build to avoid the geek effect.

Anne highlighted the challenges and importance of observing the difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. This is a pet frustration of mine when working on IT projects. When defining end-user requirements, too much emphasis is placed on asking them what their complaints are with the current system or what they would like to see from the new one, rather than observing what actually happens in their working day. The current classic is around workflow. The complaint/wish is “We want to implement workflow to make sure all documents go through a rigid approval process before they are published.” leading to the design of a complex workflow with multiple steps. The observation is: “Documents need sign off before they get published but it gets forgotten if not completed within 48 hours.” leading to the design of a simple workflow with one step involving a big red flag.

Anne talked through some of her recent research activities that produced some interesting insights into the tension between technology and culture. For example, when looking at broadband adoption, she found that the Netherlands had more in common with Korea (I’m assuming South) than with Germany in terms of usage – both countries were very big adopters of social networking and community sites. Both countries were also very early to adopt broadband en masse with encouragement from the government.

Another example was the use of social networking sites to find answers that historically we would never have investigated. She described the example of a couple from Arizona called Howard and Martha. They have been usability testers for eight years. Martha became ill at the start of the year and showed signs of developing Senile Dementia. Doctors advised that she move into a care home. Howard went on to a social networking site and asked for help – did anyone have a cure for Dementia? And he got a response, advising that he get the doctor to check Martha’s medication. Howard did just that, Martha’s medication was changed and she was cured! Five years ago, this would never have happened. It’s an amazing example of the positive effects social networks and virtual worlds can have on our physical lives (I’ll be delving into this area further in a separate post). The story had a sad ending. Howard recently died, and Anne was leaving straight after the conference to attend his funeral.

In another example of the clash between culture and technology, Anne talked about the example of using instant messaging in Japan (or why it hadn’t taken off as well there as in other countries). Manners and etiquette mean everything in Japan – when unwell, people where masks to protect others from their germs. (We tend to assume it is the other way round.) Communication is conducted in a very polite way. Texting is popular because it is not intrusive. Instant messaging can be considered the rudest form of communication because it interrupts.

To conclude, Anne made a great comment about how our use of technology is changing and becoming a natural part of our environment:

“Eight years ago, if you asked people what they are doing, they would respond ‘I’m on the computer’, now they would just say ‘I’m talking to my friends'”

Social Networking Research – The impact of Social Networking and how consumers use technology in their Digital Life

Presenter: Caroline Vogt – Head of International Research, EMEA and Americas

There were 450 attendees at this conference, and we were all given digital communicators during sessions that could be used to vote
on answers to questions and to send questions and comments via text. They scrolled the text messages on screen at the end of the event (Note to self: next time send message promoting business ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Caroline started with a session asking how much we all knew about social networking. 47% answered “Lots”. Then we were asked how many had a blog or space. 51% said Yes. My heart would have sank at this point if I were the presenter – you’re about to preach your subject to an audience that pretty much already knows all about it. To her credit, Caroline continued and delivered a great session. The focus was on research in the different approaches to social networking across countries. For example, in the UK, FriendsReunited has 71% of the market compared to 20% for MySpace.

One of the most interesting points was how there are two different forms of social network emerging – open and closed. The type of network influences how people view and use it. An open network is usually perceived as unsafe and lots of anonymous viewers. But the attitude is fun – content is usually shallow but participation is addictive. (Similar to the traditional gossip networks and similar-minded news channels.). A closed network is the opposite – attitude can be both serious and fun, but content is often deeper and participants are identifiable.

Caroline used a word that cropped in a few of the sessions on the day – the need to be authentic. In the context of this session, advertisers on social networking sites need to behave ‘like a good Spaces member’, in other words be like everyone else – participate in conversations, create word of mouth. This can not be done in a mass-processed way, you have to create exclusivity within different social networks.

The power shift from corporations to consumers. How Windows Live builds connections and brings our fragmented world together

Presenter: Blake Irving – Corporate Vice President, Windows Live Platform Group

Perhaps the most interesting slide of the day – Microsoft using the Long Tail to clarify the difference between MSN and Windows Live (a lot of people tend to assume Windows Live is just MSN renamed):

I think that slide works well. I think Microsoft should put it in a big press release and publish it on the home page at microsoft.com to help clarify that MSN and Windows Live are not one and the same.

This session talked about Windows Live as unifying your world – relationships, information, everything – and providing services to connect a fragmented world of devices – work PC, home PC, Zune, phone, Xbox etc.). AdCentre then becomes the method for serving up targeted ads.

I have to confess, this all sounded a bit like the Hailstorm furore from a few years back – people using Microsoft devices from dawn ’til dusk and beyond, and all your information being stored up in a Microsoft cloud. It remains to be seen if Microsoft as a brand is considered trusted enough for this approach to succeed. But the demos given were quite impressive:

  • Windows Live Expressions – enables people to brand/skin their sites and spaces. The demo showed how you could click on a targeted ad and use a ‘skin’* , the example given involved selecting your favourite football player from a team, and then having your site branded based on the player. This is a very interesting concept – taking the idea that people where clothes that identify their personality, and that they will do the same in the future in their online world. (Will Adidas be selling virtual clothes in SecondLife?)
  • Windows Live Gadgets – the ability to add content your site/space, served up inside individual windows (the corporate version is web parts, ala SharePoint)
  • Windows Live RSS – advertising-funded information feeds

* ‘skin’ means to change the look of your site as opposed to the content, e.g. blue background instead of white, purple text, different fonts, images etc.) <– pity that so many are unable to detach colour from content in the physical world, but that’s a whole other subject…

Blake closed by emphasising that targeted advertising will be an opt-in process, the aim is to offer a better ‘experience’. This will be the difficult balance for Microsoft to achieve – create a business model that generates revenue through advertising without driving away your ‘other’ customers.

Building the Future of Search Advertising

Presenter: Chris Ward – Commercial Director โ€“ UK, Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions

The session started with IAB market date – that ยฃ531m was spent on search marketing in the first 6 months of the year. The rest of the session was very visual (i.e. hard to describe here).

There was a demo of a beta product – Microsoft StreetSide. It combines driving directions with Windows Live Local to give you a virtual tour of your journey, showing what local landmarks look like… of course, those local landmarks can include advertising billboards etc…

Chris also showed a video talking about PhotoSynth. This is a very exciting product – the ability to create a 3d view by stitching together photos. The typical example given is the use of holiday pictures. But imagine applying this concept to the Flickr store, combining everybody’s pictures to create an online footprint of the physical world… add in all the photos now being taken on mobile phones, that can be immediately uploaded ‘somewhere’ in real-time. A major incident occurs (such as the July bombing in London last year), and now you have a service that can stitch together all photo evidence taken on the spot at the moment it happened. It’s an interesting thought…

..and taking it a step further – you have a store that is able to search through, and stitch together, photos to create a 3D representation of a location. You get lost in a city, use your mobile phone to take a picture of the nearest landmark you can see and submit it to the store. A search matches your photo and is able to tell you where you are and give you directions to where you want to go… For me, these are the most interesting possibilities with emerging technologies – the ability for online and virtual worlds to benefit what we are doing in the physical one, as opposed to existing as a separate reality.

Case study on Search / adCenter

Presenter: Nick Hynes – The IMW Group (The Search Works & The Technology Works

To give an idea of who was attending the event, 43% of the audience had clients spending over ยฃ1m in search advertising…

Nick presented some of the facts and figures around search advertising. Paid search is currently growing year-on-year by 57.5%. The 2005 total was ยฃ768m, it had reached ยฃ531m within the first half of 2006. Google dominates in Europe (for example, has 77% of the UK market compared to 45% in US). Yahoo dominates Asia-Pacific with 53% of the market.

New products that are starting to grow but have yet to find a strong business model – local search, mobile search, demographic search. They are also somewhat dependent on each other. Most mobile searches are location-dependent – you want to use your mobile to find something nearby (for example, I wish I could use my mobile to locate the nearest coffee shop when I am out and about in London and have time for a coffee/snack between meetings). Nick highlighted that local search has to take off before mobile search will succeed.

Nick also called out that it will be a while before we get truly personalised targeting of ads. People are still very protective of their data – they want something in return, beyond targeted advertising. He predicted the death of the TV schedule editor, as more people choose
when and where to view TV programmes. Hence the focus will shift from 30-second slots in prime time to wrapping adverts around content, regardless of when or where it is pulled.

Introducing Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions

Presenter: Sharon Baylay – General Manager, Microsoft Online Services Group, UK

Sharon wrapped up the morning sessions with a review of how Microsoft has re-organised to focus on advertising in the online world. The top level organisation is the Microsoft Online Services Group (OSG). There are now three areas within OSG – Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions (MDAS), MSN and Windows Live. MDAS will enable advertising to be targeted across a very diverse set of audiences, spanning MSN, Live, Office and Xbox.

Related post: Microsoft Digital Day – Part 2

This post is filed under Research > Talks

Technorati Tag: Microsoft Digital Day

Chasm Microsoft

OK, time for the chasmic posts to begin. I figured picking on Microsoft would be a good place to start, specifically the products focused on improving how we find, share and use information (i.e. the stuff I’m interested in). Now I must stress the following curve is based purely on my opinion and perception of how organisations are adopting technology, and it’s a first attempt so I may change my mind and move some products around, change their colour and add some of the missing bits (e.g. Visio, Project), but here we go…

(For a reminder about what chasm we are talking about, please check out the book note – Crossing the chasm)

First a definition of the colour codes. You’d expect anything on the left side of the curve to be green – that indicates it is growing and moving in the right direction. Anything black is stuck at one of the cracks or at the chasm. Anything red is going in the wrong direction. On the right side of the curve, it is much harder to claim green, so black is the normal colour. Green suggests a new market has been identified and the technology may jump to a new bell curve. Red means the market is beginning to shrink.

OneNote

OneNote is definitely only just finding its feet, but those who pick it up seem to love it. I have mixed feelings – I vary between using it a lot to banning it and reverting back to Word. The main reason is portability of content. Most of my electronic devices can read a .doc file (Word file format). Only one – my laptop – can read OneNote files. Given I travel about a lot, portability of content is crucial. The second issue has been formatting – it’s slower to do in OneNote than in Word (I’m still a bit of a keystroke junkie). The new version (OneNote 2007) seems to be getting favourable reviews during its beta test, but it now needs to be picked up by the visionaries.

LCS (Live Communications Server)

LCS (instant messaging and online presence status) really ought to be in the early majority by now, but instant messaging (IM) is taking a long time to become officially accepted within business. Microsoft (and other IM vendors) need to build up the early adopter base and start showing more demonstrable value from adopting real-time communications. The benefits
are undoubtedly there. Having worked inside other organisations since leaving Microsoft, it amazes me how slow and difficult communications can be without IM, but people don’t miss what they don’t know. Hence visionaries are what LCS now needs, not just technology enthusiasts.

InfoPath

I toyed with giving InfoPath the red light. It’s first release had major short comings, enough to even put off the innovators. The next version has a lot of ground to make up before trying to convince early adopters to give it a chance. It needs the technology enthusiasts to start playing with it more, testing and talking about it. Patience is required here.

SmartPhone

Windows mobile devices have certainly been successful over the past 12 months. I see more and more people carrying them when I travel in to cities. As people become used to having email on the go (thanks to Blackberry, rather than Microsoft) the market continues to grow. To jump the chasm, SmartPhones need a niche in the mainstream. I believe that niche is the calendar. Whilst other devices support synchronisation with content stored in Outlook, only Windows Mobile devices maintain the features, such as how you categorise and modify entries. Howard Rheingold (SmartMobs) correctly predicted that mobile phones will become remote controls for our lives. Lots of people rely on diaries to organise meetings… Microsoft needs to bring mobility into the fold of information work.

TabletPC

Just not sure about this one. It’s being generous to place it in the early adopters space because I haven’t seen a huge take-up within business. Portability and battery life are big issues for the types of users most likely to want a TabletPC, and those features don’t seem to have been much of a priority for many of the TabletPC vendors. To attempt to cross into a mainstream market, TabletPC needs to focus on a niche and do it very very well. Handwriting recognition is not that niche, despite being the obvious choice. Writing digitally is still nowhere near as easy or useful as writing on paper. Form-filling, searching for information and reading it on the go are where TabletPC offers benefits over traditional laptops.

SharePoint

SharePoint (I’m lumping Windows SharePoint Services and SharePoint Portal Server together) has had phenomenal success since its v2 launch in Autumn 2003. The sheer number of partners specialising in SharePoint is proof that it just hurdled the chasm. But. The next jump will not be so easy. SharePoint is quite a tricky little soul to deploy and use, enough to put off the late majority. And I’m not sure the next version will convince them either, unless Microsoft gets partners to build very focused solutions on top of SharePoint (late majority prefer single-function, whole product solutions with minimal effort required to learn and use). There’s still plenty of the early adopter market to mop up, but that green light could turn black and plateau.

Exchange

Exchange has a healthy market share of the messaging market, and continues to serve as a good reliable messaging platform. It’s challenges to move forward now are somewhat outside of the product’s control. Unified communications and voice-over-IP are technologies that have been talked about for a long time but themselves are still in the innovator space. As they gain acceptance, messaging platforms that make them easy to adopt and use will benefit, and that seems to be where Exchange is heading.

Word

Microsoft Word has an interesting future. Whilst many assume that everybody uses it, there are still areas of the market who choose alternatives, particularly in the analyst/academic space who write complex research papers. Collaboration features have also been a weakness within Word (i.e. the ability to merge and track changes, apply metadata etc.). Whilst the next version looks to sort out these issues, new challenges have appeared. There are now many alternatives for writing content. OneNote threatens to eat into Word’s market share. Blogging tools are appearing (including one from Microsoft – Live Writer) and wikis are becoming the new playground for collaboration on content – merging documents into the team space where they are stored. And one of the main reasons for sticking with Word is being eroded – currently, many different portable devices include readers for Word documents by understanding the .doc file format. The next version of Word has a new file format. Word risks becoming the Achilles heel of Microsoft Office.

Outlook

For many people, Outlook is the one application that remains open on their computer throughout the day, regardless of whether they use other Microsoft products (Exchange) for messaging and calendaring. It’s been a solid performer and I don’t think it is going to be threatened by the online alternatives that Web 2.0 claims to be cooking up. Too many people continue to work in a world that doesn’t have pervasive online connectivity – offline tools, particularly ones used to organise your life, will continue to be popular. Getting things done is still a challenge for many, and Outlook continues to try and help.

Excel

Spreadsheets remain popular as tools, often for functions beyond what they were designed for. I know a fair few people who use Excel for scheduling and project management, despite there being other specialist products providing these capabilities. Business intelligence (BI) software has existed in a niche world of data analysts. Microsoft is making a big push to bring BI into mainstream every day activities, with Excel in the thick of the solution. It’s almost enough to turn it to green – is that a blue ocean on the horizon?

There you have it, my first chasm. Next one in the works – well, it’s just got to be Web 2.0 ๐Ÿ˜‰

SharePoint History

In 2007, Microsoft will release the third version of their SharePoint server product – Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007). It will provide a wide variety of features that make it a complete information management platform, capable of delivering solutions for business intelligence, collaboration, communication, composite applications (mash-ups), content management, portals, process automation… you get the picture.

This post charts the progress from SharePoint’s initial beginnings through to the end-to-end information management platform that it is becoming, and the market changes that have also occurred along the way. The attached diagram provides the visual version. It should be noted that what follows are my own thoughts and opinions, and they do not necessarily represent the views of any employers, past, present or future ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s particularly relevant to this post, given I worked for Microsoft from 2000 – 2005 and at one point was the UK lead for SharePoint.

1997 – 1999

Before SharePoint arrived, there was a product called Site Server (and Site Server Commerce Edition) that contained features including: web content management and replication, site analytics, personalisation, indexing/search, document management and ecommerce. Site Server felt less like a product, more a collection of tools that didn’t have a home any where else. At the time, there weren’t too many servers to choose from. King of the range was Exchange Server (version 5.5), the messaging platform. SQL Server 6.5 was paddling around in the nursery pool.

In 1998 Microsoft announced that the next version of Exchange, codename Platinum, would include a new information store – the Web Store – designed for handling documents and web content, as well as email. A new product, codename Tahoe, would enhance Platinum by introducing document management through a technology called WebDAV – Document Authoring and Versioning – and an improved indexing/search engine. A separate project was also underway – developing the Local Web Store – to provide local replication of content between client and server. (If this all sounds familiar, you’ve probably worked with Lotus Notes…)

The combination of Platinum and Tahoe would be Microsoft’s next generation messaging, collaboration and document management platform. Of the remaining Site Server features, content replication moved into a new product called Application Center. Commerce Edition kept the personalisation, ecommerce and site analytics, and was renamed Commerce Server. The web content management features were, from memory, pretty ugly and retired to be replaced by a product acquisition…

In April 1999, a toolkit originally called the Digital Dashboard Starter Kit was released as a free download and introduced Microsoft’s first portal framework. The UI could sit in a browser or in Outlook and contained ‘nuggets’ displaying information from different content sources. Nuggets would later be renamed as web parts.

2000 – 2001

In 2000, Microsoft finally released Windows Server 2000 (upgrade from NT 4.0, introducing Active Directory) and SQL Server 2000 (upgrade to SQL Server 6.5). Exchange Server 2000 was completed and also released. All three releases were major product upgrades. Tahoe began the year in beta 1 development. The Digital Dashboard Starter Kit was up to its third release and renamed Digital Dashboard Resource Kit.

By mid-2000, the portal market was taking centre stage and, in October, Tahoe beta 2 was released complete with a new UI based on the Digital Dashboard Resource Kit. Tahoe had adopted a portal UI. It’s product name was finally announced – SharePoint Portal Server 2001 (SPS 2001).

By late-2000, SQL Server 2000 was outperforming its stable mate – Exchange 2000, and in December 2000, Microsoft (Steve Ballmer to be precise) killed the Local Web Store project, announcing that future database development would be based on SQL Server 2000.

Early in 2001, SPS 2001 was finally released. Having started life as a document management and indexing application, its new focus was on targeting the growing portal market. Whilst its features were basically good, it was saddled with two major problems – the web store and the digital dashboard. The web store underperformed, limiting the scale of the product. The digital dashboard was outside of Microsoft’s core development platform – Visual Studio – and had limited support within the developer community.

Also in 2001 Microsoft acquired content management vendor nCompass, and re-branded the product Content Management Server 2001 (CMS 2001). Initially the product was targeted with providing CMS capabilities for Commerce Server (re-completing the feature set that existed back in Site Server days). However, as the portal market continued to grow and overlap with the existing web content management market, CMS 2001 began to compete with SPS 2001.

And to further confuse customers, Microsoft also released a free add-on to Office 2000 called SharePoint Team Services (STS) that provided web-based team collaboration features. Confused? Plenty of customers were.

2002 – 2003

Development options for the next version of SharePoint were relatively simple – replace the Web Store with SQL Server as the storage back-end, and replace Digital Dasboard with ASP.NET for the front-end. As always, the devil was in the details – easy choices don’t necessarily lead to easy development. The focus was on improving scalability and improving portal features and that meant some of the document management features were going to struggle to be included. There’s a good reason why most document management systems choose to use a hierarchical database as opposed to a relational one for storing content… but that’ll have to wait for another blog post. As it was, features such as document profiles and workflow were left out of SPS v2. The relationship between SPS and STS needed sorting out, and the two groups were merged together. CMS continued on its own path, with an upgrade – CMS 2002 – that used ASP.NET as the front-end.

In October 2003, Microsoft released a new version of Office – Office 2003 – and included the new upgraded SharePoint range within the Office brand. STS was renamed Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), and became part of Windows Server 2003. It provided a collaboration store and a web part user interface built using ASP.NET. SPS v2 was built on top of WSS and named Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 (SPS 2003). SPS contained indexing/search, personalisation and enhanced management/taxonomy.

So we now had a portal product with a bit more scale than its predecessor that used Microsoft’s common developer tools (well, pretty much). Microsoft began to creep up Gartner’s magic quadrant for portals, and all would have been well if it hadn’t been for Enron and WorldCom…

2004 – 2006

Just as SharePoint moved away from document management and focused on portal capabilities, Sarbannes-Oxley was born and, all of a sudden, document and records management moved back up the agenda. Simultaneously, the continued growth of the portal market made it clear that portals and web content management were on a collision course, with document and records management joining the party.

CMS and SPS finally joined together as the two product groups were merged in 2004. Web parts built using ASP.NET were beginning to take on a life of their own and were moved fully into the developer playground. ASP.NET v2, launched at the end of 2005 includes native web parts. Workflow was back on the agenda, and now there is a common engine to build around – Windows Workflow Foundation (WinWF). Just like Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), WinWF will be a native add-on to Windows Server, providing a workflow service that all other applications can build upon.

Another missing piece of the SharePoint puzzle has been offl
ine synchronisation. The local web store was originally going to be used, but that project was cancelled before it was ever launched. Outlook was the logical place to introduce such a feature and, sure enough, you will be able to have offline SharePoint folders in Outlook when the next version is released. But in 2005, Microsoft acquired Groove, a peer-to-peer (P2P) team-based collaboration product that also includes synchronisation of SharePoint sites. This will likely cause some confusion again with customers, similar to when STS and SPS first appeared. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Groove has its own built-in forms service, and InfoPath also provides a forms service.

Whilst compliance requirements have sobered up the content management party, business intelligence (BI) helps put back some fizz. Portals have always been the logical place for BI to come of age, moving away from the niche specialists such as business and data analysts to become integrated in every day work. In 2005, Microsoft released Business Scorecard Manager 2005 (BSM 2005), including integration with SharePoint. And in 2006, they acquired ProClarity. Alongside MOSS 2007 will be a a new product – Microsoft Performance Point 2007 – providing pervasive BI capabilities. Get ready to see some really badly designed dashboards ๐Ÿ™‚ but that’s another post waiting to be written.

So, when version 3 of SharePoint is released (I’m guessing it will be some time in the first quarter of 2007, although the official estimate is still end of 2006), it will finally include the full set of capabilities first introduced in Site Server 10 years earlier, albeit in a far more grown up and usable format. It will also include quite a few additional features that have emerged since. I haven’t even touched upon the support for blogs, wikis and RSS, Excel services, Forms server or the new social networking capabilities provided by the Knowledge Network component, or the mash-up features that will enable composite applications, or related products such as Project Server. There is one area that does still contain duplication of features from the original Site Server. SharePoint has its own personalisation store and site analytics. So does Commerce Server. Will we see them join forces in the future?

That’s pretty much it for now. There’s a few other bits and pieces I’ve left out and I’ve tried not to include any non-public titbits around the development cycles. And if I went it to any more detail, I may as well start writing a book instead because this post is already a little on the long side. SharePoint has had an interesting journey, with curve balls thrown from all directions as the market place has evolved and adapted to changing demands. But it provides a great picture of how Microsoft develops products and is able to adapt them as the market changes. Love or hate the company, you can’t not admire the relentless perseverance to improve and deliver a successful product.

Related Posts

Site topic: SharePoint

References