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Windows tool set allows workgroup collaboration

Windows Server 2003 features a little-publicized set of collaboration tools that enables users to set up a team Web site for a workgroup and allows those workgroup members to publish information on that site.

Microsoft's strategy to build a rich client using its Office System took a step forward this week with the release of Windows SharePoint Services, a part of Windows Server 2003 that lets users publish content on the Web.

The software, which is a core part of the operating system, lets customers set up a team Web site for a workgroup and allows those workgroup members to publish information on that site. The collaboration tools include document check-in and check-out, versioning, discussions, lists, surveys, tasks and event calendars. Users can also view team member status and availability, company executives said.

Analysts say it's hard to gauge the adoption of SharePoint Services because it was never a separate, licensed product. "It's one of those things you can't track, but I get a sense that customers are taking advantage of the software," said Simon Hayward, an analyst at Gartner Inc., a Stamford, Conn., consulting firm. Hayward likens SharePoint Services usage to the early days of Lotus Notes, when departments could set up collaborative spaces on their network. The big difference with SharePoint is that collaborators can now publish on a Web site.

Microsoft is integrating its collaborative tools with the Office family as part of an overall evolution to transform Office from a workgroup tool to a group-productivity tool. "Publishing content to a team Web site is a convenient and easy way to share information," Hayward said. "In the past, you may have just e-mailed things around."

Another related product, SharePoint Portal Server, offers collaboration tools to set up company Web sites.


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