Microsoft promises greater sharing

Microsoft promises greater sharing

By Mark Chillingworth

Microsoft has released the details of its latest Office SharePoint Porter Server 2003 application and promises increased sharing and search abilities that could put Microsoft on the shopping lists of Lotus Notes users.

Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 is currently in beta testing and at the US launch Microsoft said it expects the product to be shipping by April 24, 2003.

Microsoft believes it has created an enterprise application that enables workers to create and manage information, Web sites, documents, projects and to be able to collaborate on all of these from the single portal. Collaboration is the buzz word of 2003 with a number of vendors adopting it to describe the abilities of their latest products.

Portal content delivered to workers from the new Microsoft system can be targeted, and Microsoft claims that Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 will remember how an end user prefers to see their information. Ross Dembecki, the lead product manager for messaging and portals products at Microsoft's Australian branch office said the key to this improvement is in the taxonomy.

As well as increased collaboration abilities, Microsoft claims that the new product has improved document management abilities with improved workflow, document versioning, check in and out abilities, and document profiling. Despite these abilities, Mr Dembecki said Microsoft do not see Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 as a replacement for document management technologies.

"We are not positioning this as a document management solution as it is not the most robust option. There are products that do that. We do see that users want to set up Web work places that will replace file share systems and this is what Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003 offers," he said.

A number of new functions that Microsoft is offering with the new application bring it into competition with Lotus Notes. SharePoint sites can be created so that workers can invite other team members to collaborate at different access levels. File servers can be searched, as can Web servers and public folders on Exchange. People within the organisation can be located based on their job description and skill set for increased knowledge management and teams can be tracked down according to the corporate content they have created. Mr Dembecki believes it is the first product from Microsoft that "matches" the "breadth" of Lotus Notes.

Other additions to the application include single sign on for access to applications from the portal, the ability to manage information and secured by topic, alerts for updates to information or documents.

Jeff Teper, the general manager of the business portals group at Microsoft said in a statement, "It acts as a main hub for the Office Systems desktop, making it simple and powerful for users. The statement added that a government agency is already trialling the system as a document and records repository.

Office SharePoint Portal Server 2003's collaboration tools are based on the company's .NET technology and Mr Dembecki said it supports Visual Studio .NET for developers to create personalised portal applications.

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