This is part two of our ‘Evolution of the SharePoint brand’ piece. (See the first half of this article). Below we look in more detail at how Microsoft's cloud brands have grown and developed over the years.

Microsoft’s current cloud solution for small to medium enterprises is the increasingly popular Office 365 - offering desktop apps like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and SharePoint, Lync, etc. The very first, closed, beta version was released back in 2011. This might seem a long time ago in technology terms, but Microsoft's history in the Cloud goes back much further than that.

2003 - The beginnings of collaboration online

Microsoft acquired a company called PlaceWare in 2003. PlaceWare offered real-time collaboration technology for presentations and meetings held over the internet. In time PlaceWare would find itself inside the Lync collaboration tool. The company became part of a new Microsoft business unit called ‘Real-time collaboration’.

2005 - Exchange hits the cloud

The very first Office product released online was the email server technology known as ‘Exchange’. Released in 2005, it was called ‘Microsoft Exchange Online’. The product offered the same capabilities as its on-premises cousin; the big advantage to Exchange Online was that customers did not need their own infrastructure. Exchange Online is now an integral part of Office 365.

2006 - Exchange Hosted Services

In 2005, Microsoft acquired FrontBridge, an e-mail filtering system. In 2006 this software was released and renamed ‘Exchange Hosted Services’. Over the years, it has been rebranded several more times. It is currently known as ‘Exchange Online Protection’. This product is not currently a core part of Office 365, but it can be enabled as a separate add-on for e-mail users.

2007 - The predecessor to Office 365

The first cloud version for SharePoint was released in 2007 as part of the ‘Business Productivity Online Standard Suite’ (BPOS). It was only made available to organizations with more than 5000 employees, though it later became more-widely available in the US in 2008. This product consisted mostly of Exchange Online and a version of SharePoint 2007.

2007 - Office Communication Server moves online

Microsoft released ‘Live Meeting’ in 2007. The on-premises version of Live Meeting was known as ‘Office Communications Server’ (OCS). It was a sophisticated piece of software, and contained features that have never quite made it through to the current version (now called Lync) – including features things like panoramic views and personal recordings.

Live Meeting is now available as part of Office 365 and goes by the name ‘Lync Online’.

2010 - The modern era

In 2010, Microsoft had a real breakthrough with their cloud strategy; namely, the beta release of Office 365. Office 365 combined all Office Cloud services in one single portal and service. This included Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Web Apps and Lync Online. In 2013, Office 365 was made available to consumers for personal use, with the introduction of ‘Office 365 Home Premium’.

Microsoft has moved its focus from on-premises software to the cloud and Office 365. This has resulted in more frequent updates for Office 365, compared to on-premises equivalents. Microsoft has also revealed that the next version of SharePoint, probably SharePoint 2015, will be the last version that is released as an on-premises product. From then on, if the market allow it, the majority of Microsofts brands will be cloud only.

The enterprise becomes more cloud-y

Of course, Microsoft is only one vendor that is moving to the cloud aggressively. IBM, Salesforce, SAP, and others also see the benefits of cloud software – for themselves, as well as for their clients. And as the enterprise becomes more cloud-y, companies may have less work upgrading new versions of software, but they will need to address another challenge – combining all the clouds in some meaningful way. Gartner analyst Monica Basso recently wrote in a report that “when hundreds of apps, tens of cloud services, and tons of documents are all accessible through one device, the user experience becomes a nightmare — complexity kills productivity and collaboration.”  The industry will have to address this challenge….sooner or later. Look to to make some exciting announcements in this area over the coming months.

Ram Tagher
Product Manager