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Microsoft rubs Web 2.0 noses in SharePoint cash pile

Redmond partner army must adapt to cloud

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WPC Customers want them. Microsoft is delivering them. And partners should sell and support them. That would be the online versions of Microsoft's existing applications - according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's business applications chief Stephen Elop on Monday told Microsoft's overwhelmingly desktop-and-server-oriented partner army that nine out of 10 of their customers want to transition a portion of their IT to the cloud.

Nine out of 10 will also want to deploy the web-based versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Office 2010 - due in the first half of next year. Elop didn't reveal the source of the data behind his claim, but the message was blunt.

"My business is changing. Your business must change as well," Elop told Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Partners could extend their existing work on the client and server, he added. "At the same time, everyone one of us must build on the foundation that already exists. Everyone one of us will succeed if they are thoughtful, deliberate, and focused on the areas where we will invest."

It was a reference to the massive market share of products like Exchange, SharePoint, and Office, and their ability to generate cash for Microsoft and its partners. Elop, the president of Microsoft's business applications, claimed 17,000 SharePoint customers and 100,000 million licenses.

Microsoft's business applications division, home to SharePoint, pulled in $4.5bn of revenue during the company's most recent quarter and $2.8bn of income. Both were down - 4.5 per cent and 9.6 per cent respectively - on last year thanks to weakness in the PC and server markets.

But Elop's message was intended to jointly woo partners and respond to the kind of group think that has questioned the relevance of Microsoft and Windows in the age of Google and AJAX. It came after Elop was heckled at a Web 2.0 event in San Francisco earlier this year.

"For those hecklers in the Web 2.0 crowd, SharePoint comes with a business model and it's a way for you, just like them, to make money," Elop said.

Elop prefaced this with a demonstration of the planned online version of Office 2010 applications, Office Web applications.

Office Web applications have reached what Microsoft called a technical preview engineering milestone in time for the WPC event - just like Office 2010. But unlike Office 2010, the Office Web applications are not available for testing - that will happen in August. The Office 2010 technical preview, meanwhile, is only available to invited testers.

Office corporate vice president Takeshi Numoto showed off the ability for different users to author Excel and PowerPoint documents simultaneously and for the same documents to be displayed on a PC, mobile phone, and in the browser while retaining the same formatting.

Documents will be able to run the same in different browsers - although on mobile, they'll run "best" on Windows-based machines. People will be invited to view documents via a link in an email, and those without the application on their machine will be able to view only.

Also, you'll be able to view and scroll through Office Web applications on Apple's increasingly business popular iPhone. A planned demonstration failed to work as the WPC WiFi network was overloaded, Elop told delegates.

"This is what we mean when we talk about the best productivity experience across the pone, PC and browser," Elop said speaking generally and glossing over the iPhone demo.

Elop did not discuss Azure, Microsoft's planed cloud. Microsoft is expected to announce its pricing for Azure this week at WPC. ®

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