Microsoft logoMicrosoft used to have a product called Content Management Server 2002; the sole purpose of this was to be a content management system. This was followed by the popular SharePoint 2007, in which “Content Management” was reduced to only one of six pillars. With SharePoint 2010, the packaging has been changed once again and the emphasis on CMS additionally reduced to simply “Content”, which is a pillar on its own. Is it wrong to interpret this as a sign that Microsoft is attaching even less importance to content management?

There are several additional indicators of this in the marketplace:

  • MCMS 2002 and SharePoint 2007 shared numerous weaknesses when used for public websites, notably around globalization, accessibility and standards support. In fact, CMS 2002 was far better than SharePoint 2007 concerning all of these areas. It was also superior when it came to building websites that worked in multiple browsers. It is too early to tell whether any of these will be improved or fixed for SharePoint 2010, but according to Microsoft they have been working on it.
  • As we detailed in Best Practices for Using SharePoint for Public Websites, many organisations did not carefully consider whether SharePoint 2007 was the best match for their requirements and many paid a significant price for this. Nobody enjoys having unhappy customers and Microsoft has collected quite a few.
  • Competing .NET-based CMS vendors, eg. Ektron, EPiServer, Sitecore and Umbraco have had good times as many decided to keep SharePoint behind the firewall and use something more appropriate for their public website.
  • CMS 2002 was a product in its own right and provided a full content management solution. SharePoint 2007 was the replacement which was sold and named as being a small part of the mighty Office package, even though public websites required additional licensing. The Office-bundling and joint marketing definitely helped drive SharePoint adoption. SharePoint 2007 also came with improved integration with Microsoft Word which showed some continued commitment to content management. With SharePoint 2010, Microsoft has not only changed “Content Management” to “Content” they have also come up with new terms for almost everything. Moreover, when SharePoint 2010 is released, it will be without the Office name. When examining the new Microsoft terminology, you won’t find many words from the Content Management Bible.
  • Upgrading from CMS 2002 to SharePoint 2007 was a nightmare and according to experts upgrading to SharePoint 2010 will be even harder. At this time, very few details have actually been released about the actual upgrade process, but it seems like this upgrade will be more about governance than technology.
  • The product documentation for SharePoint 2007 is quite weak with regards to content management compared to the other 5 pillars.

Perhaps Oxite, Microsoft’s open source Web CMS, which was originally released back in 2008, is the future of content management at Microsoft? A recent blog by Microsoft Software Design Engineer Erik Porter on Planning for the Next Oxite Release reveals some interesting details. I asked Porter for additional details and he said Oxite did not have any funding yet, but the side-project was gaining momentum, both inside and outside Microsoft.

Content management may not be as interesting and business-critical as other areas, such as business intelligence, but to me it seems as if Microsoft is communicating clearly that content management is not a high priority, at least not in SharePoint. What’s your take?

Thanks to Mauro Cardarelli and Shawn Shell for constructive input!