Microsoft cures its connectile dysfunction

Redmond has injected SharePoint with a potent collaboration boost

I don't ask much. If the Pats can't be in the Super Bowl, then the team to beat them out for the big spot needs to lose. I mean, that's practically etched in silicon by Stephen Hawking, right? Was it too much to ask? Apparently. For a while there, I wanted to run QB Rex Grossman through a shredder, but I suppose it's unfair to crucify someone who's struggling so hard with puberty. Instead I'm trying to concentrate on the positives of Super Bowl XLI: Grossman's MVP award from the Colts would have been one. The other was Sprint's "connectile dysfunction" ad. That was inspired.

Windows users have had connectile dysfunction for quite some time. That's one thing Microsoft is trying to address with Office SharePoint and SharePoint Services V3 in general. We were arguing about that in Jon Udell's hot tub this weekend. (No, we're not dating; just drinking scotch and annoying the neighbors into the wee hours.) The upshot was Google's "superior" collaboration capabilities vs. Microsoft's "non-existent" ones. Udell, having just become a Microsoftee, was still learning about SharePoint and recovering from the drugs they fed him during his freshman orientation weekend. Paul "Sasquatch" Venezia, on the other hand, was a complete gangling Google gomer.

You can't really relive the conversation, mainly because getting hammered and avoiding a hot tub fungal infection was a critical part of the charm. But I can play back a few of the points I got to make about SharePoint, based on Brian Chee and my bumblings with it over the past few weeks.

Most important: It's all about collaboration. SharePoint used to be pretty much an HTML-based Web site that could talk to public folders. Now you've got personal vs. team sharing built right in. Users looking at their default SharePoint pages for the first time have immediate tools to build the usual SharePoint goodies: task or project lists, managed doc repositories, or little sharing sites all their own. Even better, those same users can manage those goodies as being viewable only on their own personal portal pages, or they can make them viewable by the whole team.

And that document repository is impressive, too. Full permissioning, versioning, auditing, even bar-coding are all there; the thing is also tied tightly enough to Exchange 2007 that e-mails can be made part of the repository automatically, based on things such as sender, contact group, or subject line. Google ain't doing that.

What Sasquatch was bellowing about on the Google side was that anyone could be drawn into collaboration. No need for Active Directory membership or any behind-the-firewall issues. Just need a Google account. My point back to the big-footed one was (a) move back to your side of the tub, and then (b) SharePoint has enough single sign-on functionality to make things even easier than getting a Google membership. Sure, it's not easier to the IT guys; they need to enable single sign-on, work the authentication database, and map all that to some partner or customer's line of business application. But to those end-users, it's as easy as logging in. Period. That rocks.

By comparison, what's the Google Web 2.0 world have? Word 97/Excel 97 in a browser backed by a decent calendar and real nice e-mail system. Not bad, but not in SharePoint's league. The last whimper I heard was, "Yeah, but it's free." And that's true, Google's free, whereas SharePoint and Office aren't. But my first response was that you're getting quite a bundle of additional functionality for your money, and my second response was that no one knows how long Google can keep this everything's-free-and-in-beta deal up. My third response was to ask who was touching my foot.

Maybe next week we can all meet at a mountain spa and argue about ISA Server. Protectile dysfunction. Or the newest intrusion detection services. Detectile dysfunction. Vista-compatible virus checkers. Infectiledysfunction? OK, I'll stop, though talking about my SMB IT blog under the heading "Neglectile dysfunction" might work too.