Is SharePoint 2010 the New Windows XP?

I’m starting to suspect that Microsoft did too good a job with SharePoint 2010. I’m starting to suspect that organizations may not want to move to SharePoint 2013, but will remain on the 2010 platform for a very long time.

I’m using Windows XP as an example here, and I’ll tell you why I find the comparison interesting.

My Vacation

I’ve recently (which all you relative time buffs know is a completely pointless thing to say in a permanent medium) been on a road-trip in the US. When we travelled to the US, I frequently glanced on the computer screens on the various terminals both those used to display information to users but also those used by employees.

I was intrigued but frankly not very surprised to see that many of these screens (at least the employee ones) displayed the very familiar Windows XP logo bouncing around the screen as a screensaver. Granted, I’m sure that technically these screensavers could run on any version of Windows, but I highly doubt that all those computers ran an old Windows XP screensaver on the latest Windows 8 version.

In fact, on one workstation, where we had to be rebooked to later flight due to delays, the only use the had for Windows XP was to launch a console application where the attendant used text input to query and book the new flight for us. In other words, the application either was still or was ported from a DOS-days era application, and the attendants had white text on a black background as their only interface. This was a major US airline, by the way.

Note: I feel old when I feel obliged to explain how user interfaces was back in the days before Windows 95.

The point of this observation? Why do organizations choose to stay with the old versions? I have some ideas.

If It Works, Don’t Touch It!

The world isn’t moving along quite as fast as the marketing gurus in Redmond would like you to believe. Organizations, including some of the largest ones in the world, still rely heavily on Windows XP because it works. The applications built for that version still continue to solve the problems for which they were designed. To users and organizations that’s enough. The underlying technology is unimportant. The problems those XP-based applications solve aren’t going to change just because Windows 8 gets a new fluid interface.

For business users, it is the same thing. A business solution that solves a problem, whether that is how to find an employee to translate a letter to French or getting John’s vacation request approved, isn’t going to need updating until the problem changes. If the solution is built in SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2007, or WordPress is unimportant to the user and the organization as long as the problem is solved or at least goes away.

Note: I’ve previously written about this, in Why SharePoint Versions and Tools Do Not Matter.

Security

You may think that a major reason for upgrading from Windows XP is that there are security issues in working with old software. After all, we’re always told to run the latest version of every piece of software we own, right?

Well, the reality isn’t nearly as simple as that. In reality, the problems of Windows XP are well known. Windows XP has been around for over ten years and have been attacked, hardened, attacked again, and hardened again so many times that is is one of the best understood major operating systems today. In short, Windows XP has been in the trenches longer than most and has the scars to prove it has survived.

This is different from updates to, for example, Java and Flash, where security is often implemented by releasing a new version. In major systems, like Windows and SharePoint, security is mainly improved by releasing fixes and service packs, but the version remains. In fact, when you release a completely new version, you clean the slate of any security knowledge and start out with a completely new set of security issues that will eventually be discovered and fixed. You put a new guy in the trenches, so to speak, without the experience that a battle veteran may have.

Speaking of experience…

Those Pesky Users!

Computers would be so great if they didn’t have users. I’m not just talking about your average end user, I’m talking about everyone that needs to learn about a new version every time you upgrade.

One major reason why many believe Windows 8 may be a consumer upgrade never adopted by business is that it’s simply too different from previous version. For organizations, different means expense, whether it is improvement or not. Too much different and the cost becomes too high. Windows 8 might just be enough different that the cost in general prevents widespread business adoption.

Note: Windows 7, on the other hand, is much more similar in experience to Windows XP, which is why it is the most likely candidate for upgrades from Windows XP.

I see the same thing in SharePoint 2013. The user interface, experience, and terminology is just that much different that we need to retrain our users to understand where to find things they previously knew where was. That’s a cost.

For SharePoint professionals, there just that much deprecated functionality and that much new in terms of concepts that we need to rethink a huge portion of what we know. That’s a cost too.

The difference, of course, is that as SharePoint professionals, we are expected to live inside the platform and a major part of our job description is platform knowledge. To users, it is not, not even close. Users’ job description is “Be a secretary and handle appointments, get coffee, and file stuff”, or “Move this piece of equipment over to that piece of raw material to create a widget” or “Make sure these people get their salaries paid on time”. Nothing in that includes retraining in doing those things using a completely different platform. To users, retraining on using a tool is simply a cost, a burden, and they’ll avoid it if they possibly can.

Is SharePoint 2013 Doomed From the Start?

If you agree with my points so far, you may think that SharePoint 2013 is doomed. After all, with so many benefits in remaining on a proven, secure, and well-understood platform, why would anyone want to take the risk of upgrading?

Well, there are plenty of reasons. I’ll get back to many of these in later articles, but consider these as teasers:

New problems

SharePoint hasn’t solved every problem in the known universe. There are still four or more organizations in the world that do not run SharePoint and at least two ASP.NET developers who hasn’t yet seen the light and accepted our lord and savior SharePoint into their hearts. These will want to invest in a platform that has the longest lifespan, and SharePoint 2013 is the better candidate as it appears now.

Maintenance

When all the cool kids (meaning SharePoint professionals) get their way and start learning the new SharePoint 2013 version, organizations will find it increasingly difficult to locate someone to build and subsequently support solutions built for SharePoint 2010. Think of how few people really target SharePoint 2007 today (just a bit over two years since it was the current version), or even how few actually do anything on SharePoint 2003.

Support

Then, there’s the dreaded Damocles sword of official Microsoft support. In fact, contrary to the anecdote of the Greeks, we know that the sword will fall, and even at what time. That doesn’t change the impending doom of any old version; at some point, Microsoft will stop supporting your installation and you will not receive any further fixes, no matter how much you beg.

Still Confused?

I don’t think SharePoint 2013 is doomed in any way. I think it will have a much harder time gaining traction than SharePoint 2010 had, but eventually it, or its successor SharePoint 2016, will overtake SharePoint 2010.

However, SharePoint 2013 may find itself in a Windows Vista or Windows 8 position. It may be too much, too fast for organizations and business end users. It is certainly a gutsy move from Microsoft, but I think it is required and right, even if a lot of users and organizations will stay out.

If you need my opinion on whether to upgrade or not, check out my article SharePoint 2013 Upgrade or Not: Five Strategies to Help You Decide.

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Bjørn Furuknap

I previously did SharePoint. These days, I try new things to see where I can find the passion. If you have great ideas, cool projects, or is in general an awesome person, get in touch and we might find out together.

16 thoughts on “Is SharePoint 2010 the New Windows XP?”

  1. I know of one larger bank that still uses a lot of Windows XP and Office 2003 machines. SharePoint was “still” 2007 last year. There were no real business reasons for them to upgrade to 2010.
    My own company made the move to 2010 last year. Also, not really for business reasons, but more for “IT reasons” (we were interested in using some of the features in 2010, and wanted to have a more stable platform than our 2007 environment). Will we upgrade to 2013? Right now, I see no benefits in doing so. Let the version mature a bit, and let’s have a look at it again in a year.

    1. Rene,

      I think this applies to many; the cost of upgrading simply won’t yield a return on investment.

      However, keep in mind that a year from general availability, it will be 2014. That’s a third of the way into the expected product life cycle. A year later (which will actually be now, in terms of the life cycle) everyone will be talking and showing off betas of SharePoint 2016, which will be just so much better and SharePoint 2013 will seem so old…

      .b

    1. Just like many organizations are still using Windows XP and planning to migrate to Windows 7. We really haven’t had a Windows XP in SharePoint before; 2007 wasn’t good enough, but 2010 may be.

      If so, organizations may feel that they can simply wait until SharePoint 2016, to give their upgrade a better chance to reach a postive ROI.

      .b

  2. I think you raise a very valid point, Bjorn.

    Actually, I think this is what has happened already to SharePoint 2010. I don’t think the adoption of it has been all that high. I think there are large numbers of companies (in the U.S. at least) that deployed MOSS 2007 and are still on it, even though almost all of them “own” SharePoint 2010 due to Microsoft Enterprise Agreements.

    MOSS 2007 has proved good enough for them. So, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

    I have a client that is one of the largest oil companies in the U.S. For their corporate Intranet, they will be migrating from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010 in a couple of months. They have been a faithful user of SharePoint since SharePoint Portal Server 2003. So, this migration will mark their third since 2004.

    Why have they waited so long to migrate to SharePoint 2010 when they have owned the licenses for a couple of years? In their case it is not because they customized MOSS 2007 so heavily that it is going to be a mammoth undertaking. To the contrary, they have a policy of not customizing SharePoint at all.

    The reason they have waited so long is because the existing MOSS 2007 deployment they have “works” and they have been reluctant to introduce a lot of new change to their large number of users. They know that the user interface from MOSS 2007 to SharePoint 2010 is very different and that it is going to “freak out” (in the language of my teenaged children) the users when they switch.

    Why are they finally migrating now? The reason is the Damocles sword you talked about. The official Microsoft support for MOSS 2007 runs out this year. So, they feel that they have to migrate – even though they are generally happy with their MOSS 2007-based Intranet.

    Once they migrate, I fully expect that they will stay on SharePoint 2010 for a minimum of two years – maybe three. So, SharePoint 2013 will be nowhere on their radar anytime soon.

    1. Jeff,

      I do see many valid reasons to upgrade from 2007 to 2010, even outside the “it works so don’t fix it” and “end of support” arguments. In fact, although I’ve previously lamented SharePoint 2010 for not being enterprise ready, at least it is a platform that today is better understood and mastered by professionals.

      The longer someone waits with an upgrade, the fewer people will be available with fresh and current experience in that upgrade. That increases the upgrade expense too.

      One issue may be, however, that organizations that upgrade directly from 2007 to 2013 goes from ‘good enough’ to ‘good enough, but not necessarily better’ and may burn themselves on the upgrade cost. An upgrade from SP2007 to SP2010 is, at least to my experience, usually from ‘good enough’ to ‘better’.

      If 2007 was the Vista of SharePoint (with 2010 being Windows 7) then perhaps 2013 is the Windows 8 to a future Windows 9 (which we all know is going to be so much better too 🙂 )

      .b

      1. I agree with you that there were many useful improvements in SharePoint 2010 over SharePoint 2007 and it was clearly worth the upgrade. But, you and I are in the SharePoint consulting and training businesses. We are not IT decision makers in large organizations.

        I think the reality is that many IT decision makers in large organizations have thought that MOSS 2007 is a “good enough” product – along the lines of Windows XP.

        Virtually no one thought SharePoint Portal Server 2003 was a great product. When MOSS 2007 shipped, we saw an incredible immediate uptake on it – both from 2003 users and from companies brand new to SharePoint. That has not been the case with SharePoint 2010.

        Just my two cents worth.

        1. Jeff,

          Very interesting. I’ve seen the opposite, in that organizations on 2007 see 2010 as a major improvement in general (although not necessairly in specific solutions).

          As a second note, when SP2010 was announced in July 2009, I immediately started getting requests for research projects on SP2010. This time, counting from the ‘announcement’ in January, I’ve had a few requests and a couple of projects coming up, but not nearly as many as for SP2010. Perhaps it has to do with my controversial voice, but I had a much smaller audience in 2009 leading to more requests, compared to now. Perhaps it has to do with Microsoft’s increased secrecy this time around. Perhaps it’s just random.

          May I ask about your experience with customer interest?

          .b

          1. So far, we have a similar observation to yours in terms of questions and overall interest expressed by customers regarding SharePoint 2013. There doesn’t seem to much interest yet.

            To tell you the truth, our customers are a lot more interested in how they can get a good MOSS 2007 or SharePoint 2010 experience on their iPads than they are in thining about SharePoint 2013.

            I’d say that if Microsoft had announced “killer” iPad support for SharePoint 2013 we would be flooded with emails and phone calls asking when we will be providing consulting and training on how to migrate to 2013.

            In almost every meeting I attend these days at a client’s offices, the conference room is full of people with iPads that are connected to the corporate network and none of them like the limitations of SharePoint’s iPad friendliness.

            I am hoping that the Surface tablet will be incredibly SharePoint 2013-friendly, but haven’t seen anything written about that yet. Even so, it is an incredible long-shot that the Surface put a dent into the iPads popularity in the enterprise. One thing that could really help the odds is if the Surface gives a great SharePoint experience.

          1. Thanks for correcting me, Roger. I knew several 2001 customers and you are absolutely correct, they thought 2003 was a definite improvement.

          2. Honestly, Roger, I don’t agree. I started using SharePoint in the 2001 days, and when I saw SharePoint 2003, I still just saw potential in the same way I see a potential sculpure in a brick of mud. Which I never do, by the way, but I’m sure you get the point.

            SharePoint 2007 was the first time I saw ‘the light’ and really wanted to start using it for myself. I saw how it was suddenly possible, perhaps for the first time in computer history, to have a system that adapted to what I wanted and how I wanted to work, rather than having to learn how a system works and adapt my tasks and way of working to what the system wanted.

            So, to me, although better, I never saw 2003 as ‘good’ even at the time.

  3. Hey Bjørn,

    10 months later and what do you think? Especially now that we’re hearing about the accellerated release schedule.

    BTW Feature wise, I’m loving SP2013 (we’re “playing with it in dev”) and can see some quick “wins” for the business. What scares me is the size of the product, the number of servers involved and how big they need to be. While that might suit large organisations who need to scale, smaller orgs wont really see the benefits and small farms will, I suspect, struggle for resources. Makes it a hard sell to the infrastructure guys (even in our virtualised environment)

    Later’ish
    Craig

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