065. SharePoint: Office Builds Our Own Server
"SharePoint? You mean that thing I hate!" –BillG making sure I understood his real feelings about SharePoint
I admit up front this will be one of my favorite sections to offer. SharePoint was a remarkable point in the history of Office as we expanded the product line from desktop Win32 applications to include servers, a prelude to services. Within Microsoft this was by many accounts not only heretical, but also impossible. How could a team made up of “UI programmers” develop a server? Strategically, the inherent conflict between a server tuned for information workers and the actual server business was intense and fraught with difficulties. I would learn another lesson in bundling versus stand-alone product, and endless lessons in just how much the analyst world struggled to make sense of Microsoft’s product line, even when it just didn’t matter.
While I could spend many pages on the features and my love of SharePoint as a product, the transition Microsoft was going through while we developed SharePoint is equally important to the overall story being told. We will start there.
This is a lengthy section that is is best read online. Think of the length as a measure of passion. 🙏
“We need an ‘Office’ server” was another one of those lunchroom conversations with SteveB before he became CEO. It was a concrete expression of an abstraction. What he was really saying was that Office needed to think broadly about how to solve the problems information workers were having. That business card he used to make a note of “find me all the stuff about France” was now looking like a product issue for Office. We were all in on the opportunity and were well ahead of Steve, having been thinking about this from the moment we saw FrontPage. We made it through the 97 and 2000 product cycles and FrontPage had established itself as a favorite tool of Internet Service Providers. We were ready to build on that foundation and expand the little web server we had been using to share product documents on the team. An Office server was a key part of the Office10 vision. The path from vision to RTM was not going to be a straight line.
The first half of the year 2000 was nothing short of eventful.
Microsoft and customers survived the looming Y2K apocalypse. Despite dystopian fears, except for a few trivial and humorous problems, nothing went wrong at midnight.
Windows 2000 shipped.
Microsoft rose to an astronomical $500 billion market cap.
Then the NASDAQ dropped more than 2,000 points with the Dot Com Bubble becoming a defining event of the rise of the internet.
Judge Jackson declared Microsoft a monopoly that violated the Sherman Act (causing a 15 percent post-bubble stock price drop), and then later ordered the split of Microsoft.
Office was attacked by a massive virus, resulting in the disabling of core product features.
Capping this off, Forum 2000 was a landmark event in the evolution of Windows Server and introduction of what would become Hailstorm in an effort to rebuild Microsoft as an innovator in the internet era.
PaulMa retired from Microsoft after having had an incredible influence on the company’s operating systems, platforms, and the company’s enterprise transformation.
It was also the start of SteveB’s tenure as CEO. Many believed this would mean little or no change given how SteveB was known widely as the “third founder.” SteveB on sales and marketing leadership and company execution. BillG on technology vision and strategy. This seemed a formalization of what we always felt was the case. On the other hand, how could someone so different keep doing things the same way?
Earlier in the Spring of 1999, there was a BusinessWeek cover story about the remaking of Microsoft. It featured a photo of Bill and Steve together and the subheading “While Bill Gates plots strategy. . .Steve Ballmer shakes up the culture.”
With so much going on, Steve’s first reorganization as CEO seemed relatively minor even expected given how the sales force he created reorganized almost yearly. It didn’t seem like much of a “remaking of Microsoft” as the headlines touted months ago. There were some new people, but the big changes were in financial reporting.