Remarks by Bill Gates, Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation
“Connecting People, Process and Information”
SharePoint Conference 2006
May 15, 2006
ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Well, thank you. I’m excited to be here this morning to talk about SharePoint. It was thrilling for me to see the response we got for this conference. After all, this is the first time we’ve done it. And the key point that SharePoint is becoming a platform for collaboration of all types, I was wondering if people would have that so clearly in mind that we’d see this incredible response.
I think when people look back on what we’re doing with Office here, the most revolutionary element will be what we’re doing with SharePoint. And that’s saying a lot, because this release of Office is a major one with lots of incredible functionality, a new user interface, the deep XML support, to rich capabilities in all the modules, but the whole way that people think about information sharing, both within the company and outside the company, I think will be reshaped by the SharePoint platform.
There are a lot of big trends taking place that it’s important to have in mind, and that clearly influence how we do our software development. Obviously the power of the personal computer hardware continues to improve at a pretty phenomenal rate. Things like storing documents even with lots of slides or video and audio now is possible because storage is very inexpensive, storage on the server, storage on the client.
The compute performance of the Windows Servers is higher than ever before; in fact, not only the best price performance but now the best absolute performance, better than the most expensive mainframe or UNIX system, coming in an easy to install, 64-bit, low cost Windows Server.
And so the ability to unify infrastructure, to simplify infrastructure using common operating system is stronger than it’s ever been before.
So taking data and analyzing that data, doing rich data mining, presenting it visually, that wouldn’t have been possible in the past or would have been just far too expensive, now is becoming commonplace; whether that’s data about customer transactions, data about people navigating your Web site, those insights should be easily available, and not just a week later but literally within the same day that the activity is taking place.
The devices we consume the information on are getting better and better. At the desktop we’ve gone from a 15-inch screen now to going to a nice 20-inch LCD display. The prices of those have been coming down so that workers of all types will be able to have broader, richer information.
When you’re on the go, the device is getting lighter and more capable, and we see a move over time to a tablet form factor that lets you not only use the keyboard but also the pen for taking notes, doing annotations, and having it in a meeting environment connected up to that high speed wireless network.
The key architectural advance for the industry is taking the low level connectivity that the Internet has given us and turning that into high level connectivity, connectivity of deep information where industry standard formats and company standard data dictionaries allow information to move between systems without loss of semantics.
The way this is done is through service-oriented architecture and the standards that are called Web Services, and the industry has really rallied around those to make writing this kind of software where you can talk to software on any other machine, independent of what language it’s written in or what operating system it’s on, simply by using the rich data standards that grew out of XML and are now encapsulated in Web Services, that kind of connection is actually straightforward to do the development of.
So all these things are in the atmosphere where broadband use is exploding, Internet costs keep coming down, and if we take a longer term view we can say it’s really about the digitization of the economy, buyers and sellers more and more finding each other and doing a high percentage of their work in a digital fashion, people at home when they think about buying, scheduling, getting organized or even how they’re marketed to, that’s done through the digital platform.
So all of this requires software breakthroughs, breakthroughs in ease of management, breakthroughs in security approaches so that the digital infrastructure isn’t a weak link, breakthroughs in terms of how information is shared or how people control what they want to see. Simply having subscriptions through RSS is a great thing, but users need to be able to prioritize when they see the information. And we still have to have information controlled so that it’s easy to state who should be able to access and what they should be able to do with it; so a lot of richness in terms of those trends and how they come together.
One of the challenges we’ve always had is that the information that’s digitally stored inside applications is not really coming out in a way that people can see what’s going on with quality trends, what’s going on with the key customers, what’s the profitability as the price changes, how are the sales results by product, by geography, what are the trends there. That visibility to really empower people still requires printing lots of things out and digging through reports and people being surprised, not being able to annotate and share in a simple fashion.
Now, one of the reasons for that is the barrier between the structured information that’s deep inside often thousands and thousands of tables in that ERP system and the more ad hoc straightforward way people like to work together; that hasn’t been bridged. And that’s one of the challenges we’ve really taken on with Office 2007, and in particular with the way that pulling that information out into the SharePoint environment, we’ve made that possible.
I think there’s a very strong analogy with what Office 2007 is trying to do on the server with SharePoint to what we did on the client with Office itself, going back really to 1995. Around that time, the idea that every worker should have the full set of tools, they should be richly consistent, you should just take them for granted. When you hire a temporary worker, they should know how to use Office. If you enclose a document in e-mail, it can be any of the Office formats and whether it’s inside your company or outside, people should be able to receive that. That kind of commonsense that led to incredible efficiency, just basic understanding that a budget was going to be in Excel, a brochure was going to be done in Word, that happened in the mid ’90s and it’s gone on to get richer and richer and richer. But there’s this assumption that for document creation all those things were pulled together into a very deep suite, and that everyone participates and has those capabilities.
At the server level we have not had that. We’ve had vertical systems, some that are focused on document management, some on content approval, some on search, some on business intelligence. We’ve had this word portal that’s used in different ways by different people, sometimes meaning just the financial top-down information, sometimes meaning the bottom’s up, ad hoc things people want to do; it’s a term without a very clear definition, but it really speaks to the idea that people wanted something that was the equivalent of what Office was on the client, something where you had standard templates that you would start with, if you wanted to organize a meeting, involve people, have the schedule, the documents, the participants, just click on that template, edit it, have it be different for inside your company, and, boom, you’re off and running; no need to go to IT and get something provisioned in a special way or to learn something new, it’s there and you’re all sharing it.
So how did people get by without that? Well, they bought some of these systems that were more narrowly focused, but they didn’t give them to every desktop because the training and learning that user interface was not pervasive. Or they would simply use e-mail; in fact, I’d say in large part it was e-mail with attachments or just printing things out was the way these collaborative things got done. And so the idea that you could just have the key indicators there and have those easily available and that somebody could subscribe to see only the changes of the type they’re interested in, those things weren’t possible.
And that’s what we’re trying to change, we’re trying to have the commonsense set of templates that you can take for granted that everyone knows, and that you build on within a company to have the logic, the data connectors, the standards, all those things through the SharePoint environment, and so really taking what have been probably six different categories of software and really pulling that together into a single environment.
And so that is this key element of Office 2007. In no way do I want to minimize the other things we’re doing in Office 2007. If I sit and use the new user interface, I’m thrilled about that, this full embrace of XML that we’ve been doing more and more of in every version, and each of those things are really complementary to what we’re doing with SharePoint, but our focus today, and I do think no doubt the thing that people will look back on as the most profound is how this all comes together.
And so we do think of SharePoint as a platform, and we’ve done a lot in terms of making it easy to develop on top of that, make it extensible, and that’s really a key thing that it’s been there with all Microsoft successes, going back to the original BASIC to MS DOS to Windows, really creating an ecosystem of partners to develop solutions on top of that, whether it’s commercial developers like the partners we have here at this conference or your own IT development staff who knows the scenarios that are of interest.
Almost every horizontal business activity, whether it’s surveying employees, personnel review, expense tracking, sales analysis, organizing for a new product release, every one of those things there will be templates for in the SharePoint system that have been adapted to your business practices and set up with the right kind of display and workflow logic that makes these things very straightforward to develop. By creating a phenomenon around this we get rich vertical things built on top, and we get the data connectors so that this world, this world of sharing and collaboration is not isolated from that structured world, but, in fact, connecting up, getting the events, even navigating into that world becomes easy because you know and you’re familiar with this user interface.
And so as you go from portal to portal, the one that was built up in your department, the one that’s about HR, the one that’s about the new product design, it’s very familiar; even though each of those have picked the documents, the commands, the way to organize that makes sense for them, the overall structure is just like Office itself, something that feels very, very familiar.
Now, I talked about the boundary between the structured world and the unstructured world. There’s also been boundaries at these different levels of scale, particularly as you get to the organizational boundary and you want to have partners, people in different companies who get authenticated in different ways have access to private information. Obviously on the consumer Web where you don’t think about information protection, there’s been a flourishing of great things going on, things you can search for and edit and share, and here we want to take all the creativity that’s there, have the full power of that, and yet also have the kind of control, the standard applications that are very important when dealing with business information.
Starting with the individual, the idea of having a MySite where you can share things about your interests, what you’re working on, you can have the information that you want to be able to access anywhere you’re connected up over the Internet, that’s really the lowest level of granularity, but at every size of group you may want to have a SharePoint site.
As soon as IT sets it up so that people can self provision and create these new sites, it’s always amazing to see how it proliferates, because what happens is you’ll get an e-mail with a link, you’ll go off, look at that site and say, wow, that’s pretty good, they’ve really got their information there for whatever the activity is, and then you’ll ask them what template did you use, how did you go about that, and finding out that it’s literally tens of minutes to get one of these things going, not a new project approval, not even a new expense because the generic SharePoint capability is out there with a reasonable amount of storage just for people to set up, the explosion is always very exciting.
In fact, with SharePoint up till now we didn’t have the richness in the platform, but we tried to seed it by making it so in Outlook whenever you would put an attachment in we’d actually alert you and say, hey, would you rather put this up on a SharePoint site, so that was a way of starting to draw them in.
And SharePoint has been a phenomenon, but we just didn’t have the richness of connectors or programmability to really make the claim we’re making now about the breadth of this platform for all these different activities and saying that specialized things can now be built on top of this.
In fact, even at Microsoft we have a number of applications about customer meetings, expense tracking, HR, things like that that were actually written from scratch as full applications, just starting with Visual Studio, and without a user interface framework, without a collaboration framework or a subscription framework. And when you do it that way, you end up with a variety of user interfaces, with capabilities that are different in the different applications, and they take a lot of time to develop, they’re just not as rich as they should be.
When you think about these things starting with SharePoint as your foundation, something like expense tracking, the idea of seeing the history, seeing the changes, it’s obvious, you expect it, and whereas where it’s built from scratch just as a Web site application, you’re not going to get that to happen.
So we see these portals, these Web sites, these SharePoint sites at every level of scale here, and, in fact, this idea of federating, letting people come in to authenticate from outside the company, that’s one of the capabilities that we’ve now enriched in the platform, made fairly straightforward. That, of course, does involve IT, the original idea of the trust of what are the outside companies and changing the certificate there, IT sets that up, but once it’s set up with a company, then for any new site you do you’re able to select the identities of the people in, say, that partner or customer company that you think should have access to that information.
One of the elements that we’re adding to this is what we call Office Live, which is where SharePoint will be hosted by us for people who don’t want to run it on their own server, and particularly for smaller organizations or when you want to do something very ad hoc, you can put sites out there, and yet the authentication can connect up between what you’re doing and what’s going on, on that SharePoint site; so just flexibility of how it gets done and really reinforcing the phenomenon through those Live activities.
Well, as I’ve been working with the SharePoint group, you know, they’re always getting e-mail from me about did you really get this feature done, is this thing really fantastic. And so as we were talking about that, there’s a number of themes that kept coming up again and again about what I wanted to make sure got right, and why I’m so excited that in this release we’ve really gotten to that critical mass. So I picked the top five things and thought I’d step through those.
It was actually hard to order these, because I like them all a lot. The first is what we’ve done with the wikis, blogs and RSS capabilities. You know, as I mentioned, the consumer Web is moving at a very rapid pace, and so wikis, the idea that in some cases you want everybody to be able to contribute and come in, offer up their ideas, if you can just get the basic site organization right, the kind of creativity and participation from an organization that you can see can be very, very strong and really encouraging people, not a formal process, the wiki lets that happen.
And so just taking that as a template, you’re off and running. In fact, within the wiki you can have a wiki that sits underneath a normal SharePoint site, and then underneath the wiki you can have things like calendars and blogs and things like that. So each one of these capabilities comes together with the others; some sites will be just a straightforward wiki.
Blogs, you know, making it easy to that people can come back from trips and talk about what’s going on, or developers talk about the tradeoffs they’re making, and yet have that in the environment where there is control over the information, the kind of protection, notification things that you want in a corporate environment.
RSS, the idea that whenever something changes you ought to be able to get an event, and on your behalf you ought to be able to say, okay, when do I want to be interrupted by that, when do I want to have that show up, what folder does that belong in; having the RSS events trigger out of these SharePoints and then be able to go in, say, to Outlook and use all the richness of rules that we’ve created there to say how you want to classify it, that’s a very powerful capability.
And so we will continue to track all the innovation of the broad consumer Web and make sure that the templates that we’re updating and the capabilities we’re providing coming within the SharePoint environment.
Second is the way we’ve connected up to Excel. You know, when you think about Excel you always think, well, that’s a client side thing, yes, it can display information in a rich way. Now up on the server the ability to use multithreading, 64-bit, do the complex recalcs up there means you have all the power of the modeling and the display capability of Excel essentially behind every SharePoint site. And that wasn’t possible before, it was more difficult to come down, do the recalc on the client manually and then republish up to that server; now the way we’ve connected it up, it can essentially be part of the site.
Third is client integration. This is one thing that many of the people who think about these kinds of capabilities don’t get right. After all, people know Office, they use Office, they understand how to create documents there, and so you’ve got to let them, as they have a spreadsheet or a Word document, go in and get the kind of compare features and display features, and so the rich connection between the SharePoint sites and Office that you know very well is something that is very important, and we’ve done an even better job of that here, partly through the use of XML.
This next one probably will become clear to you as you see the demonstration, because I think this is one that will really surprise people, and that is that when we’ve been thinking of search we’ve been mostly thinking about search of the entire Web, and just text-type lookup. And so the entire Web, that works amazingly well, but, in fact, most of the questions you want answered need structured information: Who is the expert in this, when is this thing going to be due, who works on this account. And so having the world of documents that are just plain text over here, and the structured information over here, when you’re just trying to get questions answered, that doesn’t work. You’ve got to bring those two together and, in fact, there’s synergy of having what goes on in the documents, what goes on in that structured world.
And so Business Data Catalog is our term for how we’re connecting up to that structured information. And this will really be the place that you end up going to find the customer account records, the background on the salesperson, because it can navigate, traverse across all these systems. So this is one I think that will really surprise people, because corporate search is different, not just the protection issues, although that’s pretty profound, but also the idea of connecting up to the Active Directory and the ERP systems as well.
And then finally this idea of SharePoint for these composite apps, that idea of the surveys, the personnel review, the quality tracking type capability that now with the richness of tools, starting all the way with the full power of Visual Studio, the SharePoint designer as a very powerful tool, and then even simple customization you can just do inside the environment itself, and the ability to republish the templates so that everybody is building on top of everybody else’s work, you’ve got the parts catalog that’s connecting up to everything, that absolutely made the top of the list.
So a lot of different things there, and when I speak with customers about SharePoint, I love seeing the enthusiasm, but it’s often that they pick one or two of these things and that’s why they’re driving it to critical mass in their environment, but to get the most business value out of it, we think it’s great if you can think about it in an even broader way, think about all these things and how that fits into your environment.
Well, as I said, the best way to appreciate this is to see it in action, and so let me ask Tom Rizzo, who’s the director of the SharePoint group, to come up and give you a little tour through each of these things that I’m so excited about. (Applause.)
TOM RIZZO: Thanks, Bill.
So I’m super excited to show you the biggest release we have, Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server 2007. It’s huge. I’m going to go through the five things that Bill showed you, and talk about the things he loves, but I’m just touching the tip of the iceberg here.
Now, this is a team site, you’ve all seen this, I won’t bore you with showing you the team site, but you see down here there’s something new and interesting, this is the BI dashboard support in SharePoint 2007, and we support this idea of KPI lists or Key Performance Indicators. You really want to be able to track your business data in a rich way, in a graphical way.
And so to add KPIs to this KPI list it’s as easy as clicking into the new button and selecting from the different options. Now, we do support connecting to your back-end systems, like SQL Server analysis services, we supporting connecting to SharePoint lists as KPIs, so you can put tasks inside of here, you can track how you’re doing against those key tasks. You can even manually enter information.
But Bill talked about Excel services, so let me come in and add an indicator using an Excel workbook. So I just come in here, I’m going to put in the “Reduxicon.” I’m a pharmaceutical company here. My year to date sales for this product. I’m going to paste in the URL. And this is actually an Excel workbook stored up on my server, and when I click select to go and select my indicators, my goals, my warnings, guess what, this is Excel services.
Excel services, three key things about it: thin rendering of Excel workbooks and spreadsheets, no ActiveX controls downloaded, it’s truly a thin rendering. The other thing, as Bill said, is you no longer have to buy these big, beefy desktop machines to calculate very complex Excel calculations. Just move it up to SharePoint, you get 64-bit support, you can even run it on the Windows Compute Cluster Edition, and have it span across eight servers to do all your complex calculations. And then the final thing about Excel services is the platform. So it has a Web Services API and you can call in and be able to program this all from your own applications.
But here’s a KPI, so I’m going to go and select my indicator value for my current sales, and then I’m going to go and click through into another sheet inside of Excel on the server, and I’m going to say this is my information here about my goals, and then any sort of warnings if I go below this number I’ll get that nasty red stoplight inside of my KPI list that everyone hates.
And just with a few clicks of the mouse here, I’ve added in a new KPI for my Reduxicon year to date.
Now, when you go home you can be the hero of IT, you can change this from my stoplight to smiley faces to chili peppers to half moons, and every end user will love you inside of your company. So it’s really great from a visualization standpoint.
The other thing you may say, it’s great, I’ve got this KPI but I really want a rich chart inside of my BI dashboard. So I’m going to go and open up the workbook that we were just taking a look at, and I’m going to go and edit this workbook. Again, it’s all stored inside of SharePoint on the server. And before I even get to the BI visualizations that we have in the new Excel 2007, the first thing that you’ll notice that pops up here is we now have a rich metadata panel called the Document Information Panel inside of all the Office applications. You get rich functionality, like I’m going to come in and do a name resolution against the owner, and this is going to go against the Active Directory, and I find Pat Coleman, and I’ll just click okay, and I can even get a date picker to select the next review date inside of here. We hope this rich metadata panel finally makes your users enter in metadata, right, we all want that.
So the other thing, too, about Excel 2007, it on the client side provides rich new BI visualization, so I’m just going to come through and show you some of those. Conditional formatting, we now support data bars so you can quickly see what is happening inside of your data. And here I see the glycoprotein is doing a lot better than the photocuderm. Yes, I said that quite well. We call it glyco and photi for short in the business.
But anyway, I’m going to go in and insert it in this chart. And again Excel, rich visualizations on the client, I’ll show you this on the server side in a second. Let me just resize my chart quickly here, move it over, and give it a little bit of a name here. I’m going to call it My Chart 10.
And the great thing about the Excel client with the BI visualization is we now have these Quick Styles so you can quickly come and format and make yourself look like a great graphical designer, with really having to not do very much work. So there we go, my chart looks a lot better.
To publish this to the server, I just come and set some options in the client, and now with Excel services I don’t even have to publish out the entire workbook, I could just say publish out only items in the workbook and just publish out that My Chart 10, maybe you don’t want to publish out the formulas, maybe you don’t want to publish out the data behind the chart, you just want people to see the chart on your BI dashboard.
And now let me go up and save this, and I’m going to overwrite my existing chart, and I’m going to pop back in to my team site, and I’m doing a little bit of Julia Childs here, I already dragged and dropped on the Excel Web Access Web part, so I’ve got it baking in the oven back there, and when I restore this you see now my chart is up on the server. Pretty cool, huh? No, you can clap, it’s okay, no worries about that. (Applause.)
So that was Excel services. The next thing that Bill talked about was around the Business Data Catalog. And so I’m going to go and do a quick search and SharePoint continues to support all the enterprise repositories that you want to do search around, file shares, Web sites, Exchange Server, Lotus Notes, and all the content in those different sites. Now, with the Business Data Catalog I can go against many different back-end systems through Web Services or ADO .NET, and we ship a number of connectors out of the box.
We have a little bit of a bug here, this will change in the final UI, but this is actually customer information coming back from MS CRM. So I get a nice little profile page, I’m not the best graphical designer, you’ll make it look a lot better when you get home, but this is coming from a back-end CRM system. So I get all the business data flowing through into my site, and I get all business actions as well so I can go and do things with my CRM system.
Now, you may say search is great, but I do a lot of other things inside of SharePoint, I have issue tracking that I use inside of SharePoint. And lots of times my end users, when they go and they enter issues, they type in customer names and they abbreviate them incorrectly or they misspell them, and it’s not really going against the back-end system that I want it to go against for the master data.
So I’m going to come into this issue, which shows for Kontoso that shows four of the packs we shipped were actually delivered damaged, and I’ll scroll down, and this customer name actually maps to that Business Data Catalog. So I’m just going to come in, start typing in, we support rich name resolution against the back-end system, so it says, hey, there are a couple of customers named “Kon” back there. And when I click on it, just like you get in e-mail, this is against the back-end system, I get name resolution. So I come and I can say Kontoso Limited, and when I click Okay inside of the browser you’re going to see up pops the customer name and you can pull back all the associated business data. So I pull back the sales total from my CRM system as well for that customer.
Now, directly inside of the column as well I get those business actions that I talked about, so I don’t have to go to the back-end system to perform business actions, I can do it all right in context inside of my SharePoint list.
So that’s the Business Data Catalog.
Now, the next thing is Bill talked about rich community support, and so we have a wiki here for our Reduxicon product, and wikis, they really do provide great bottom’s up sort of collaboration but with all the top down support that SharePoint provides you with backup and restore and scale and security.
If you look at this wiki, I can come in and take a look at the rich history, so I can go back a couple different versions, see the strikeout, see the highlights inside of the wiki. I can come in as the salesperson and work with my marketing team and with my development team to modify the content so we have the best content available, without all the overhead of maybe a rich document management system, we don’t need all the capabilities there.
So when I go and actually edit the wiki, you see it’s rich editing, so I get a rich toolbar and I can do rich formatting. I’m going to add in a sales plan here for the Reduxicon product, so my development team folks can take a look at it, and my marketing team folks can take a look at it as well and provide their comments.
I’m just going to go into Word, you don’t want me to type and misspell things, so I’ll just copy that, pop back into my wiki, and paste; again, the rich formatting all works, and I’ll click Okay, and now everyone knows in the organization what’s happening with the sales plan for the Reduxicon product.
Now, the other thing Bill talked about was blogs and RSS. We have a link right here to our blog. This is a team blog. SharePoint supports rich blog support right out of the box. It’s one of the templates we have, you get the archives, you get the permalinks, you get all the things you would expect from an enterprise blog, with the power of SharePoint.
I’m going to come in and make a new post. I created that BI dashboard. I want to say, “Check out my new BI dashboard.” And people love this blog entry, blah, blah, blah, right, so I actually have something in there. And I’m going to publish it out.
All RSS readers who subscribe to my blog from SharePoint now will get a notification. But RSS doesn’t just stop with blogs inside of SharePoint, we support RSS on alerts, whether those alerts are against a list or even against search results, so you can get an RSS feed anywhere inside of the SharePoint environment.
Now, the final thing that Bill talked about was client integration. We all know that you spend probably most of your time living inside of Outlook, and you love the support of SharePoint inside of Outlook today with calendars, contacts, and tasks. We can see here I’m gong to go, we had a team calendar up on our team site. Lots of folks say, great, I want to be able to take that team calendar and look at it with my personal calendar side by side. We can do that. But you say, okay, where are the conflicts, I don’t know what’s happening on the team site versus my personal site inside of here. Well, with the new Outlook 2007 we have this new overlay mode of calendars, so you can quickly see my personal calendar is highlighted, my team calendar is in transparency; when I flip around, my personal calendar is now transparent, and my team calendar is actually highlighted.
So I see that we have a little bit of a problem here over on our Kontoso strategy session, conflicting with our June sales forecast. I’m going to open up my team calendar stored inside of SharePoint, this is all inside of SharePoint now, directly in Outlook. Oh, I need to move this to 11:00. Let me save and close, and now my SharePoint site is automatically updated, full bidirectional support between SharePoint and Outlook. (Applause.) Oh, people like that, good!
But it doesn’t stop there. Yes, I can’t stop. The next thing he told us was but what about documents, I want to be able to take my documents offline. And so let me pop back into the browser here, let me go to my product sheet site, and these are all my documents. I’m getting on the plane, I’m going to meet with some customers, I need my product sheets offline with me. In two clicks I’m going to take these documents offline. First click, just come to action, we have this new Connect to Outlook action directly inside of SharePoint document libraries. Up pops Outlook, says, “Tom, what would you like to do, would you like to take this document library offline,” and I’ll say yes. Just watch over here, you see now I have this new sales document folder inside of here, my document libraries synch offline, and now I can get on the plane and be ready to go with my (Endurogone ?) product sheet and be able to take to my customers.
So really quickly, I showed you the five things that Bill Gates loves about SharePoint, I think you’ll love them, too. Thank you. (Applause.)
BILL GATES: Well, we’ve been waiting to get SharePoint out into your hands for quite a while, so it’s great for us that now is the time you’re all over the next month going to get a chance to build on top of this yourself and let us know exactly what you’re able to do with it, and where we should take it from here.
I wanted to make it clear that, of course, SharePoint is a key element of a very broad product strategy, and a lot of neat things happening with all the key elements. Windows itself is obviously a very big deal that Vista is getting done this year with the January official launch for that, and the beta 2 for that is coming up very soon. We’ve got the version of SQL Server that came out late last year, which is a key foundational piece that also takes the embrace of Web Services and XML to a new level, and then a lot of innovation in the tools, in Visual Studio and in the management and security area.
Automating management and security is a very, very important thing for us, because having models that let people see exactly what traffic they’re allowing in and audit and log that traffic, we need to make that very straightforward, so people’s willingness to rely on digital infrastructure continues to match the efficiencies that the digital infrastructure can offer. And so that really has to mature along with these other elements, and that will bring things like over time moving away from password reliance to having multifactor authentication, which in most cases will involve the use of a smart card.
At the top we show the idea of Live services there, I mentioned Office Live in particular, the idea that people can come up and provision SharePoint sites very easily, and we’re going to make it for organizations of all type you’ve always got that flexibility to either connect up to the capabilities through a Live service or to provision it on premise and you’ll be able to mix and match between those models, whatever feels comfortable, because the glue that ties them together, the user interface, the security model, the Web Services standards, all of those things are common, whether it’s connecting up through the Internet or in the IT datacenter itself.
So we see software as the key element for companies to share information, get the most out of their employees. You see that with this People Ready campaign where we’re talking about empowerment and really taking the infrastructure of your Internet connection, your PC, and getting more out of that. You’ve got the hardware pieces there; now putting this software piece on top of that where SharePoint really is going to be the most vivid example of that, and starting to touch people in process after process. You know, in companies as people are seeing it for the horizontal processes, then within their department they’ll start to adopt it, and some departments will move faster than others. I mean, after all, you’ve got young people coming in who use the consumer Web or thinking about that type of facility of information flow, and so they’ll gravitate to a product that has that kind of connection.
So I do think we’re revolutionizing in a fairly big way the idea of how information is shared, really taking what we started with document authoring with Office and took to another stage with the e-mail and attachments, now moving that to the next level of people working together, and easily encoding the kind of logic or way that people want things, how they want those things to appear.
You’re all pioneers here, coming and getting in early, and so we’ll be thrilled to see what you can do with this tool. Thank you. (Applause.)
MODERATOR:: Thank you, Bill, thank you.
So I’m sure several of you have questions, and we’re fortunate enough to have about another 15 minutes or so with Bill for an open Q&A. So we’ll be taking questions one at a time from the four microphones located up in the front of the aisles, and while you are all thinking about your questions, and feel free to begin to form lines here, I’d like to introduce our next keynote speaker, who will be joining Bill for the Q&A. So please join me in welcoming corporate vice president of the Microsoft Office Server Group, Kurt DelBene. (Applause.)
KURT DELBENE: Great, so we’ve got somebody over here at number three.
QUESTION: Hi. First, Mr. Gates, thank you very much for the wonderful products that your company creates. I’ve used them for a large number of years, and have nothing but, of course, the greatest respect for your organization.
However, when will the Microsoft products share a common database engine and a common workflow engine? For example, Active Directory has its own structure, Exchange has its own database engine, obviously SQL Server, and your different products that sit on top of these engines all have different ways of accessing that information. Workflows as well, SQL Server has its workflow engine, BizTalk is the corporate workflow engine, SharePoint has its workflow engine and so on and so forth.
So as the Chief Software Architect, what are we doing about this?
BILL GATES: Great. I’m sure Kurt’s smiling as he hears that question because this is something we talk about a lot. We’ve built up storage approaches that are particular for the requirements of several of these different systems; Exchange when we first built it, the idea that we needed the hierarchy of quick foldering, the idea that we needed a special type of text search in there, so we built up its own database structure.
You’re absolutely right that in terms of programming things, backing things up, it would be much better if we could get things into a single structure, and so the Exchange and SQL group have been working on that, and down further in the roadmap Exchange will be built entirely on SQL.
Now, with SharePoint it’s not perfect but it’s actually much closer to the idea, which is that SharePoint, of course, does use SQL, it uses it by building some primitives on top that include these list type structures that are unique to the SharePoint environment. And so in our roadmap what we need to do is take that richness, multi-valued fields and things that SharePoint absolutely needed to do, large number of essentially tabled things through the list, and get those into the native SQL environment, and so you don’t have the SharePoint layer, you simply think, hey, this is just SQL and there aren’t any separations in that data model.
And there’s a rich dialogue about exactly how to do that, because, of course, you can never go backwards. We put the capabilities in for Exchange and SharePoint and Active Directory for very specific reasons.
Just on Active Directory one key point there is that it was about the unique thing there was the need to be able to do replication where parts of the network were down. And more and more what we’re seeing is that Active Directory there will be two instances, there will be the authentication piece, which is sort of in that native Active Directory format, but then there will be this meta directory, and most of your editing and changes and visualization and reporting will be off that meta directory. And the meta directory is just built on standard SQL already, that’s always been just starting out with SQL.
And so we may never move the underlying thing about just the pure authentication piece, but you won’t see that because you’ll be doing all your editing and applications work in the meta directory thing.
And so getting SharePoint, meta directory and Exchange more to be pure native SQL is a hot topic right now, because we’re going to take — in the next major release we’ll take some significant step in that direction.
In terms of workflow, I think that’s a tougher one where you need to let there be some different innovations. Unlike SQL where now we really understand all the need for hierarchy and notification and all these things, and we can move towards a unified approach, in workflow the needs of end user simple workflow development versus the most complex workflow development in the different environments, we’re going to let there be a little bit of variety in that as this state of the art develops the format of those. It really is not just workflow, it’s declarative programming, model-based declarative programming, which we’re investing in very heavily, but I’m not pushing all the people to have one engine yet, I think we have to go a whole generation of allowing those things to get richer.
Your point about the Outlook rules where you set up the triggers and things like that, and what we’re doing in SharePoint, we will be bringing those even closer together, because you’re going to be getting a lot of notifications out of SharePoint and you’ll want the logic to process that on the server and in Outlook to be the same. So at the end user level, end user workflow, yes, I do think that one is ripe for some stronger alignment.
QUESTION: I have a quick question around Groove. It was a pretty significant acquisition you folks made about a year ago, and part of the reason was getting Ray on the team, but part of the reason was also the core software has applicability at a very large base. But your current packaging that you’ve done with Groove is very specific to the enterprise edition of Office, which actually is limiting from the pervasiveness that you can get in Groove, which can act as a staging repository for documents that could then get into SharePoint.
What was the reason behind that kind of packaging? Why didn’t you make it more pervasive? Was it just because it would be too much of a feature overload for some of the broad-based penetration?
BILL GATES: Well, maybe Kurt wants to add to this, but Groove is still available like it’s always been, that you can go out and license Groove, and, in fact, there are some very inexpensive versions that are sort of try on the Web and get people involved in Groove.
We weren’t sure whether to package it with Office at all, because for some people this offline peer-to-peer thing is super important, and they want it even for some people who don’t have Office, and for some people they’re working more purely server-based, and they don’t as much work with offline and the peer-to-peer thing. But we did decide for the enterprise version to have this philosophy that we basically give people access to all the different tools, and not have them have to think about that.
But I think a lot of the Groove volume will come from people selecting it as Groove itself. The power of Groove still in terms of this client offline capability is still much richer. And we made very good progress in this version of Groove aligning it with Office, and so it connects up in a better way and can use the same forms infrastructure and those things. That’s another one of these things that as an architect I think, okay, there’s another step we need to go with that, but given that the time we had and the way we aligned things, I think we feel very good about what we’ve gotten done.
KURT DELBENE: Yeah, I’d say we see the role of Groove as being a central collaboration client on the desktop only growing over time. I think the vision that we have is much more expansive compared to what we were actually able to accomplish in this release.
In terms of the packaging, it may be a misnomer, enterprise means it’s the thing that we want enterprises to adopt it as the complete solution in terms of all of our collaboration capabilities in the desktop, et cetera, but we would expect there to be a significant amount of purchases as Groove as a standalone product, and are very much going to encourage that purchase pattern as well.
QUESTION: I’m a proud SPOT watch owner, and I’d love to use SPOT watch as a distribution channel, maybe integrate with RSS. What’s the plan? Was it a response to Scott McNealy’s Java ring or was it really part of the Windows everywhere strategy; give me your roadmap.
BILL GATES: Well, I’m the right person to ask because I’m a SPOT believer. For those of you who don’t know, this is the wristwatch project that Microsoft did where we use FM signals to actually broadcast data, and so if you have this watch you get stock updates and weather and news and things. And you just go to the Internet and pick what you care about, what sports or what traffic things, and then your watch gets a message that tells it what things to display for you.
We got off to a slow start on SPOT because our watches were a little too thick and we didn’t have the right distribution channel, and so now there’s a new generation of the SPOT watches coming, actually some color display and things. So we’re pushing ahead with that, but it did not get to the mainstream in the first version, so we had to step back and do some of the more ergonomic design.
It’s a perfect example of a sort of subscription, because as you go to the Internet and pick what you care about, that’s like an RSS subscription, and the idea is that if we can get that to large numbers, then even corporate data feeds, you could go up and sign up to those and have those come down on your watch as well, but we need to get more of a phenomena around that, and so we’re taking another shot at that.
QUESTION: My question is we’ve been using SharePoint, the new one, for about three months and we love it. The only problem is our company is about 40 percent Mac based and 60 percent Windows, and we’re trying to get everyone to the Windows platform. But are there any plans to get SharePoint and Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office 12 on the Mac OSS platform?
BILL GATES: Yeah, Microsoft supports the Macintosh with Office, but for some of these advanced enterprise things it’s important to note that we actually did fork the code base so that the Mac Office people take the work that’s done in the Windows Office group and they adopt some of those things and they do some of their own unique work.
As the Mac user base became over 90 percent oriented on Home and Student, it was just viewed that the whole way that we did development and the features just weren’t matching to that Mac user base. And so we upgrade Mac Office on a somewhat different schedule than we do Windows Office, and I don’t actually know off the top of my head what their cycle looks like.
They did some great Outlook work. We had not done much with the mail client, and they did some excellent work there, and, of course, they’ve got the basics.
The browser capability that’s on the Mac should let you get at these SharePoint features. I mean, obviously we love Internet Explorer, but the other browsers can get at these features. In fact, if you’re up to date on those, I can’t think of any significant thing that you wouldn’t be able to have access to.
So you are a fairly unusual corporation in terms of having that mix, but for most of these things, even as you make the transition, I think the SharePoint thing should be okay. Office does not have all the same things on the Mac, and we should probably sit down and do that comparison for you.
KURT DELBENE: Yeah, the only thing I’d add there is our approach in terms of browser enablement of functionality in SharePoint is if you can make it available in the browser, make it available in the browser. And so you’ll see things like the ability to kick off workflows, the ability to enter metadata on documents that sit inside SharePoint, that’s available through a browser interface, as well as through the rich client interface. We think of the client scenarios as just additive. If you’re in Word, you should be able to do that kind of functionality directly from within Word, but you can also do that through the browser as well.
QUESTION: I guess I never really thought I’d be standing here, because I’m a long time Lotus IBM partner, been on it for 12 years, and been working with you guys for about a year now, and thank you for embracing us with open arms, and it’s been great. We’re currently involved with you with various competitive initiatives in terms of moving people from Lotus Notes to the Microsoft environment, and I want to thank you for everything you’ve shown me, because we really have the weapons now to go against very complex Notes applications that are out there.
Speaking of that, what is your current view about Lotus Notes and the current Workplace initiatives that IBM is coming out with?
BILL GATES: Okay. Well, I’m not exactly unbiased on this subject. (Laughter.)
I’d say that we’re the beneficiary of the fact that when we think about doing software, the idea of the information worker and what they need, how they think, what’s complicating and confusing them, that’s always been a huge center of gravity for us, how do we empower those people. And as IBM, other than the work that Ray Ozzie did when he was at Iris connected with Lotus, their center of gravity has very much been more in terms of IT or corporate development. And there’s nothing wrong with that, those are important constituencies, we have to understand their needs, but particularly as the original team at Iris disappeared, they’ve really gone back to not so much thinking about productivity software, they haven’t done anything new there. Workplace, I don’t know of any substantial use of Workplace that’s out there, and that’s before the Office 2007 system comes up.
We have done something where we’ve said that as you think about Notes and you compare that to Microsoft, don’t just think about Exchange. Exchange has a release — I think of it as Exchange 12, but I guess it’s Exchange 2007 that’s timed at the same time as Office 2007, very powerful release. In fact, we had a conference focused on that as well, and it connects up to these other things.
So for messaging that is the best system, but we never turned Exchange into a collaboration platform. We had some shared folder things and stuff like that. SharePoint is clearly our collaboration platform, and it’s more mainstream because it’s just taking all the standards of the Web and the browser access and just building on top of those.
And so we’ve been very lucky that as IBM has had a discontinuity, that they’re saying, well, your Notes applications aren’t going to continue to run, we want you to move to a new environment, which is some WebSphere type thing, people have had to step back and say, okay, it’s not the best messaging system, Exchange has been totally focused on those scenarios, and it’s not the best collaboration platform because it’s sort of stuck as a pretty good messaging platform and a pretty good collaboration platform.
And so we have had a lot of very strong migration. Getting corporations to do it was hard because they’ll have a lot of Notes applications and we have partners that have learned how to help with the migration or show them how to let some of those stay in place and still have the integration that those people want.
So the trend on Exchange for messaging and SharePoint for the collaboration piece has been fantastic, partly because of the partner programs we’ve built around that. So thanks for your help on that. I do not see anything IBM is doing that we feel particularly threatened by where they’re sitting down and thinking, hey, we’re going to allow information workers to work in a better way. And that’s partly why we picked this People Ready them, because that’s a way of looking at things that we fortunately are fairly unique in.
KURT DELBENE: Yeah, I’m even more biased than Bill probably, but the other thing I would add there is compare us in terms of the depth of our vision across the entire information worker space and the consistency of architecture versus a set of products that you have to deploy on the IBM side, and I think you would find that I think the vision is broader and it’s more consistent and easier to deploy.
I have to apologize, we just have time for one more question. And so I’m going to go over here to the left hand side.
QUESTION: Perfect. Then I’m going to anger people by kind of repeating another question that was asked.
SharePoint we find sells itself into almost any industry or vertical, no problem, people come to us and they’re excited about it. But the one industry that we have a really tough time selling it is education because of the Mac again.
You talk now about the browser support. Are we going to get true browser support with Safari, with Firefox, with Internet Explorer, or are we going to get kind of the Outlook Web Access kind of dumbed down browser support for the other browsers?
BILL GATES: Well, the world of browsers is advanced to the point where some of the innovations we did all the way back in Internet Explorer 5.0 that we called DHTML and it’s sort of become the foundation for what people call Ajax type development, that’s now widespread across the browsers. And so the latest version of Safari, the latest version of Firefox, and, of course, latest version of IE, because now we’re all the way up from 5.0 to 6.0 is pretty pervasive to now we’ve go the beta of 7.0 is in the marketplace. So the ability to do kind of nice interactive things in a way that works with the major browsers is a lot better. When we do, for example, InfoPath from the server or Excel type display from the server, we are using Java script that comes down on the client and runs, and we’ve done a lot of testing of these scenarios, not just on Internet Explorer, and so we have pretty good documentation on how far we’ve gone on that testing, and which versions of those browsers are adequate for these most advanced scenarios.
OWA was created back when you couldn’t run any scripting on the client, and so OWA always had sort of two forms, the one that worked on all browsers that had lots of roundtrips in it, and then the OWA that assumed IE 5, didn’t even work with our down level, but assumed IE 5 and worked very well. Now we’re able to take those things where we get rid of roundtrips and do those cross browser in almost all the cases. So we should just give you the full story on where we’ve done the testing and how that works for the different browsers across the different platforms.
The answer is you’re going to find that over 90 percent of these cases work super, super well in any browser that’s reasonably up to date.
KURT DELBENE: Yeah, I think that’s right, and we’ve actually broadened the browser support matrix in this release to support things like Firefox as well. I think you’ll find that the actual scenario enabling the browser is probably taking less advantage of the rich functionality of a specific browser than perhaps OWA does, so more of the functionality is actually available to you. So I’d really encourage you to look at the mainstream scenarios you’re interested in and see if the actual functionality is there across the platforms you need.
BILL GATES: Yeah, and education is a great thing for SharePoint, the idea of we want to build up a critical mass of templates there and get a phenomenon industry by industry and ourselves really figure out how we can get the template exchange going both noncommercially shared templates but also ones that are ISV commercial as well.
KURT DELBENE: Great. So with that, I’d like to thank Bill for his time today, and we’ll move along.
BILL GATES: Thanks. (Applause.)