As readers of RSG's Web Content & Experience Management evaluation report know, SharePoint is a poor fit for external-facing CMS scenarios.
In fact, Web CMS has always been the unloved step-child at Redmond. With the push to the cloud in general and Office 365 (including SharePoint Online) in particular, Microsoft clearly had an opportunity to create a more web-focused, standards-friendly WCM offering -- something that could keep up with the expanding needs of digital teams who need to innovate more rapidly than SharePoint's traditional three-year cycle.
But it was not to be. In fact, the cloud-version of SharePoint Web Publishing only offers a subset of the capabilities found in the on-premise edition. More generally Microsoft just doesn't seem interested in digital marketing. To be fair, Redmond has been increasingly candid about this.
So it wasn't a big surprise over the winter holidays when Microsoft rather quietly pulled the plug on "Public Websites" in SharePoint Online. Current users will still receive product support for a couple more years, but no new public websites can get built.
Redmond's announcement hints at partnering with or reselling WCM services from a 3rd-party supplier. If so, the choice will be telling. If Redmond promotes a more productized, lower-end solution, it will speak volumes about its assumptions about its core Office 365 customer base. If it offers a more sophisticated, integration-friendly offering, larger SharePoint Online customers may take a second look.
Either way, we'll keep watching, and sharing deeper analysis with our WCM research subscribers.