SharePoint: What's coming when with the 2010 release?

Even though Microsoft released a private beta of its SharePoint 2010 product to testers in July, the company has said relatively little about the next release of its collaboration platform -- until October 19. Today is the opening day of the SharePoint conference, where Microsoft officials are sharing a few news tidbits -- including public Beta 2 availability (November) and plans for two new Internet-focused SKUs.

Even though Microsoft released a private beta of its SharePoint 2010 product to testers in July, the company has said relatively little about the next release of its collaboration platform -- until October 19.

Today is the opening day of the SharePoint conference, which is being attended by 7,000 or so customers, partners, developers and analysts/press. Microsoft is sharing a few news tidbits today, specifically:

  • The public beta of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 are slated for November (not this week, as some  SharePoint testers had been hoping/expecting)
  • When SharePoint 2010 ships in the first half of next year (word is May/June 2010, the date Office 2010 is due), there will be two new SKUs on the line-up for users with Internet-facing sites: An on-premises one for companies with small and mid-sized Web sites; and a hosted one for those who want their Web sites hosted by Microsoft.

The head of Microsoft's SharePoint business, Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper, itemized in an October 19 blog post the 40 feature areas that Microsoft is highlighting with SharePoint 2010. CEO Steve Ballmer, who is keynoting the SharePoint conference today, is planning on highlighting a few of them, including the new Ribbon interface; Office integration (with social tagging, Backstage integration and document lifecycle management; new content-management features; integration with Visual Studio 2010; new business connectivity services for developers building line-of-business apps and Web services; and support for Silverlight, REST and LINQ.

SharePoint is a $1.3 billion business for Microsoft -- despite the fact that many customers still ask Ballmer what SharePoint is, as he acknowledged during his conference keynote remarks. The 2010 release, as I mentioned Friday, the SharePoint 2010 release the fourth iteration of SharePoint that Microsoft has fielded in the past eight years. How did it become the fastest growing server product at Microsoft?

"SharePoint hit the market just as collaboration, particularly workspace technologies, were getting very hot. The suite message with portal, search, content, BI and application development along with the core need for better collaboration resonated," said Forrester analyst Rob Koplowitz.

SharePoint analyst Janus Boye of J. Boye consulting had a different take as to how SharePoint sales have skyrocketed.

Boye attirbuted the growth to "mostly clever sales and marketing (on Microsoft's part)by bundling the product with Office and other licensing agreements. This means that project managers and others have had to argue with management why NOT to choose SharePoint before getting permission to do a proper market evaluation. Since many customers have had the impression that they have already paid for SharePoint, many have had to fight hard to get to use something else.

In the coming months, Microsoft will be playing up SharePoint's developer-centric capabilities; the ways that the product is improving on the enterprise social-networking capabilities that it introduced several of years ago; and the tighter synergies between the on-premises and online versions of SharePoint.

Microsoft has its work cut out for it with the new release of SharePoint, company watchers say. Even though the new capabilities coming in 2010 are all needed, IT budgets remain tight. And even though Microsoft execs are playing up SharePoint 2010 as a major new release, there aren't any revolutionary features in the product; instead the new capabilities are more evolutionary, market analysts say.

"SharePoint is strong in collaboration but less mature in social, ECM (enterprise content management) and application development" -- all areas Microsoft is emphasizing with the 2010 release, Koplowitz said. In the enterprise social-networking space, in particular, "SharePoint is more of a fast follower than a leader and will look to make a big leap forward with 2010," he added.

Update: A few more things to know about the SharePoint 2010 release: It's 64-bit only and requires Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2.  Recommended memory is a minimum of 8 GB. It also requires SQL Server 2005 SP3 with CU (Cumulative Update) 3 or SQL Server 2008 SP (Service Pack) 1 with CU2 or SQL Server 2008 R2 (still in beta but will be supported when RTM).

Previously: What makes Microsoft's SharePoint tick?

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