Microsoft's Ballmer says no extra fees for using SharePoint in the cloud

In an interview, Ballmer also says SharePoint's cloud APIs will become more open and vows to avoid data losses like the Sidekick screwup

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer says that the potential of SharePoint shows no signs of having any limitations for the foreseeable future and that Microsoft will have consistent licensing across online and on-premises software, and will protect data in the cloud so episodes such as the Sidekick data loss never happens again.

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Ballmer made those and other remarks during an exclusive interview with Network World after he delivered the opening keynote address at the annual SharePoint conference. Ballmer noted that it was his first-ever keynote address at a SharePoint Conference, a duty that was typically reserved for Bill Gates.

Ballmer told the crowd he was pumped up and that SharePoint is at the center of innovation at Microsoft as it develops its three-screen strategy -- PC, Web, and television.

He carried both those themes into his interview with Network World.

Ballmer said he thinks SharePoint, which can be used for such things as file storage, portals, intranet and Internet sites, and social computing, will not bump into any limitations for the near future. "The list of things we see customers wanting to add, and our ability to add those seamlessly on top of the platform, is pretty good," he said.

Among many new features in SharePoint Server 2010, which goes into its first public beta next month and ships in the first half of 2010, he pointed out storage improvements that help cut costs. "With SharePoint, I think we have a lot of runway left in terms of capability and the right kind of ease of cost profile management and deployment," he said.

In terms of licensing, Ballmer said Microsoft won't penalize users on client access licensing as they move between the cloud and on-premises deployments of software such as Exchange and SharePoint. "We have a big enough installed base of people that bought licenses that say, 'Hey, when we buy your service we don't want to be re-buying what we have already paid you for in terms of software."

He also gave reaction for the first time on the recent Sidekick episode that led to the loss, and subsequent promise of recovery, of users's personal data. "It is not good," he said of the Sidekick incident. "People will want to know, is our approach different for SharePoint Online, is our approach different for the enterprise infrastructure. I think we have good answers, but I know we are going to continue to upgrade our processes and have to upgrade how we talk about this stuff, because we are going to get more questions.

Ballmer said that Microsoft is working to open up SharePoint with cloud-based APIs, the 2010 version adds support for REST and ATOM, and that Microsoft eventually hopes to have fully trusted applications running in SharePoint. Today, only partially trusted applications are supported. "With 2010, we built a sandbox environment so we can host SharePoint online, SharePoint for Internet and intranet sites in the cloud. The sandbox is extensible and is where people can write applications in the cloud and that will only continue to get richer and deeper as we move forward," he said.

And as always, Ballmer showed his affinity for developers, Microsoft's quintessential leading punch in any emerging market opportunity. "We are excited to have some developers, developers, developers jump right in there," he said rubbing his hands together with glee and anticipation.

Ballmer will have served 10 year as CEO of Microsoft in January, and when asked about his successes, challenges and regrets over that time period, he chuckled and said, "I have had all three of those in spades."

He said he is proud of many things, among them building Microsoft into a serious player in the enterprise in the face of many doubters.

When ask about his challenges, he cited search and mobile, and in terms of regrets he said with a sly smile, "There are plenty of regrets. Most are 'hey, I wish we had done something earlier, or made a decision a bit differently."

But mostly, he said he is proud. "I think we are well positioned for the future."

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This story, "Microsoft's Ballmer says no extra fees for using SharePoint in the cloud" was originally published by Network World.