Wednesday, 14 January 2009

What's next for SharePoint ?

Hello all

Quite a while since my last post, had a fairly tech free holidays, and then a busy January ! But enought of that......

I note two posts by Mary-Jo Foley over at ZDNet on Microsofts next versio of the office system, Office 14:

Office 14: The (near) silence is deafening &

Select testers get Office 14 Alpha release

No don't expect any details, but Mary-Jo qoutes my friend Janus Boye and some other sources on the timescales for release of the Office 14 system, which includes the next version of SharePoint.

It would appear if a limited, 'private' alpha testing phase is in progress now, by Q2 / Q3 there could be public beta's so would be able to get some idea of what direction Microsoft is taking SharePoint in.

Why is this so important? Well because SharePoint has many users, and it is in my humble opinion (as I have noted previously) a bit of a 'jack of all trades and master of non' - as befits what is basically a .Net portal / development platform. However unless your a lot closer to MS than most of us are (Non-disclosure agreement closeness) then you can't tell where the SharePoint server (MOSS 2007) product is going because there is no public roadmap.

In the first post linked to above, Mary-Jo conjectures that Offline access to SharePoint content will be improved via integration of Groove technologies. This would seem like a logica step, and while many people like to throw brickbats at Lotus Notes, nothing really approaches its Offline sync capabilities after all these years - well except maybe Groove, which was of course invented by the same guy, Ray Ozzie. Synchronised offline access is of course very important to all those laptop (and Netbook) equipped people, who may not be 'road warriors' per se, but are mobile to some extent (think hot desking and divesting expensive corporate property portfolios....).

SharePoint of course has a large and healthy partner / developer eco-system and sometimes MS decides to take a popular feature provided by a partner and add it into the main product. For SharePoint this might include better blog and wiki functionality or better metadata and taxonomy management. Although MS market MOSS 2007 as 'Enteprise Content Management' I don't think we will see much in the way of improved Digital Asset Management facilities, the RDBMS based architecture which requires content items to be kept as 'blobs' in the database is just not scalable for DAM (hence the current 2GB file size limit).

What would I like to see in 'SharePoint the Next Generation' ? Better web content management. Its soooo convoluted, Master Pages, Layout Pages, Themes, over-riding CSS in multiple places, installing the Accessibility Tool Kit - yuck. But again, I think most of this is architectural and not easy to change, so I won't hold my breath. Interoperability via CMIS would be nice and would befit a development platform after all.

In the end I think we will get shiny UI improvements, like AJAX elements etc, but not much of any great substance. I hope I will be pleasently surprised when that public beta finally gets out.

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