Microsoft proves itself a perfect rival with its new sharing software


Microsoft Corp. is boosting its rivalry with Google Inc., Box Inc. and Dropbox Inc. with new software to help employees work together and share files, looking to expand a $3 billion annual business and update a program now viewed as passe. Microsoft is releasing a new SharePoint, introducing phone apps designed to fix the product’s lack of mobile integration, and updating the OneDrive file-sharing apps. The software maker also is offering free migrations for customers of its Office cloud software who want to switch to OneDrive from Box or Google Drive.

It has been three years since Microsoft released a new version of the traditional, non-cloud SharePoint, which lets companies create internal sites for teams and projects, and the software has fallen behind cloud rivals. The product’s lack of mobile features also has pushed some customers to Box and Dropbox. While the update gets Microsoft back into the game, products from some cloud competitors remain easier to use and better designed, said Cheryl McKinnon, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. who was briefed on the Microsoft products.

“SharePoint will still be a bit behind, but this should inject some fresh life into the existing user base,” she said. The biggest impact may be to help Microsoft persuade more customers to switch to the cloud version of SharePoint, McKinnon said. Currently about 40 percent of customers have moved to the cloud option, the company said. Microsoft is navigating a transition to cloud and subscription-based products, seeking to lessen its reliance on traditional, one-time software purchases.

Microsoft will use its Office graph technology — its corporate equivalent of Facebook’s social graph — to suggest content that is relevant to individual workers in the new SharePoint. The feature will also let you look at colleagues’ profiles and see what they are working on. In OneDrive, new Office graph features will suggest files that are important for users. It’s a feature that “has a lot of potential,” McKinnon said.

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