I spent a couple of days at the SharePoint conference two weeks ago with about 8000 others. Many attendees were customers, but the majority seemed to be Microsoft partners. It would be difficult to overstate the enthusiasm of the attendees. The partners especially, since they make their living off SharePoint. There has been a lot of useful reporting and commentary on the conference and what was announced as part of SharePoint 2010, which you can find on the web, #spc09 is also still active on Twitter, and videos of the keynotes are still available at: http://www.mssharepointconference.com.

As the conference program and commentary illustrate, SharePoint 2010 is a major release in terms of functionality. But the messaging surrounding the release provides some important insights into Microsoft’s strategy. Those of you who were at Gilbane San Francisco last June got an early taste of Microsoft’s plans to push beyond the firewall with SharePoint – and that is the big story. It is big because it is a way for Microsoft to accelerate an already rapidly growing SharePoint business. It is big for a large number of enterprises (as well as the SharePoint developer/partner ecosystem) because it is a way for them to leverage some of their existing investment in SharePoint for building competitively critical internet applications – leverage in expertise, financial investment, and data.

The numbers are telling. According to an IDC report Microsoft Office and SharePoint Traction: An Updated Look at Customer Adoption and Future Plans, IDC # 220237, October 2009, of “262 American corporate IT users, just 8% of respondents said they were using SharePoint for their Web sites, compared to 36% using it for internal portals and 51% using it for collaborative team sites.” (the report isn’t free, but ComputerWorld published some of the numbers).

Can Microsoft increase the use of SharePoint for Web sites from 8% to 36% or 51% or more? Whether they can or not, it is too big an opportunity for them to ignore, and you can expect the market for web applications like content management to look a little different as a result. Of course SharePoint won’t be the right solution for every web application, but Microsoft needs scale, not feature or market niche dominance.

There are more pieces to this, especially integration with Office 2010, which will have a major impact on the scale of penetration. We’ll look at that issue in another post.

You can see why SharePoint is a major topic at Gilbane Boston this year. Join us next month to continue the discussion and learn more.