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Is Microsoft Saying So Long to SharePoint Social?

Microsoft is currently hosting its annual SharePoint conference in Vegas, and "social" looks to be the word of the week. But the biggest news was buried in a blog post by Jared Spataro, GM of Enterprise Social at Microsoft: He effectively admitted that SharePoint social is going away.

When Microsoft acquired Yammer, many analysts wondered how the company would integrate the new service--social to its core--with internal efforts to make its vast product suite more "social." SharePoint social, which the vendor starting talking about in earnest a couple of years ago, is clearly taking a back seat to Yammer and the new features in Office 365. In his blog post on news around Office 365, Spataro said, in reference to the future of SharePoint, "Go Yammer! While we're committed to another on-premises release of SharePoint Server--and we'll maintain its social capabilities--we don't plan on adding new features."

Which kind of begs the question: if "social" is the direction the enterprise world is headed (and I and Spataro both believe it is) why would anyone continue to invest in SharePoint?

In other news from the event, the vendor announced some noteworthy changes to Office 365:

1. Office 365--the cloud version of the vendor's productivity and communications applications--will start to look a lot more like Facebook. Thanks to more robust integration with Yammer, Microsoft is extending Enterprise Graph to create Office Graph--essentially mapping the relationships between people, apps and information. Codenamed Oslo, the feature is designed to give employees the information they need when they need it--even if they are not aware, at the time, that they do.

It's a nice idea--but the proof will be in the validity of the results. How many times have you wondered about what, exactly, is showing up in your Facebook feed--and why? Will Oslo do a better job at not just mapping, but also evaluating the need for, and relevance of, specific connections? Will it serve up data and relationships users can actually use, or will it just make the "feed" seem even more random?

2. Extending Groups across Office 365, so that creating a group anywhere in Office 365 will automatically provision a corresponding inbox, social feed, calendar, and document library. The group's Yammer feed and inbox will both display the same conversation, so users can work in their preferred environment. Interestingly, groups are set as "open" by default, although privacy settings can be changed as needed--another mimicry of the shifting dynamics of social.

3. Offering Inline Social Experiences in Office 365, Microsoft Dynamics, and any other application or service. That means adding Yammer conversations to documents in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business; making it easy to post updates, documents, and emails to Yammer from SharePoint Online and Outlook; and enhancing the integrated social capabilities in Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Future plans call for integrating Yammer with Lync and Skype, too.

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