Ray Ozzie's ambitious plan to revitalise Microsoft's software, beef up its services, and kick seven bells out of Google.
All roads lead to SharePoint
Customers who insist on hosting their own servers, of course, have long been Microsoft's bread and butter.
Such customers can choose to deploy the Office Web Apps on SharePoint Server 2010, the forthcoming version of Microsoft's "Swiss Army knife" solution for intranet applications; this method has other advantages too.
SharePoint is a web-based platform that allows customers to rapidly build and deploy workgroup collaboration applications using preconfigured components.
Although it has drawn criticism for being a proprietary platform in a market filled with open source alternatives, SharePoint's rich collection of services has earned enough converts to make it the fastest-growing product in Microsoft's history.
The upcoming version sees SharePoint taking an even greater role as the central nexus of networked Office workgroups, providing improved integration with core Office 2010 apps.
In addition to Office Web Apps, SharePoint Server 2010 can play host to SharePoint Workspace, a rich, client-based collaborative environment.
In reality, SharePoint Workspace is simply a retooled version of Ray Ozzie's Groove client. But in its new guise, it becomes a true thick-client interface to SharePoint's traditionally web-based services.
It could be argued that SharePoint Workspace is to SharePoint what Outlook is to Exchange, complete with data synchronisation for intermittently connected users.
Just as Outlook provides a richer experience than Outlook Web Access, Microsoft is betting customers will find SharePoint Workspace preferable to Google's strictly web-based collaboration services, including Google Wave and Google Sites.
Google's chief advantage is that its cloud-based applications require no on-premises hardware, no software installation, and no ongoing maintenance.
To offset this, Microsoft has begun offering SharePoint and Exchange servers hosted in its own datacenters on a subscription basis.
Under this arrangement, customers get most of the benefits of running servers on their own premises, with fewer headaches.
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