How quickly can Microsoft close the SharePoint-SharePoint Online gap?

I've seen more than a few customers and press/bloggers wondering about how and when Microsoft plans to roll out some of the new SharePoint 2010 capabilities to customers of its hosted SharePoint Online service. The answer is complicated, as there are multiple phases planned. Here's what I know (and what I'm guessing).
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

I've seen more than a few customers and press/bloggers wondering about how and when Microsoft plans to roll out some of the new SharePoint 2010 capabilities to customers of its hosted SharePoint Online service.

When Microsoft was developing SharePoint 2010, officials told me that the team was taking a new tack: The SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint Online teams were working together on the latest release (instead of the software team passing the baton to the Online team only after the release was finished). The goal was to minimize the gap between Microsoft's rollout of the software and the service.

So how much did Microsoft actually manage to minimize that gap with the 2010 release?

At the Office 2010/SharePoint 2010 launch in New York City on May 12, Microsoft execs said to expect the company to release SharePoint Online "for our largest customers" updated with 2010 functionality "later this year." (Translation: SharePoint Online Dedicated customers get the update first.) Some time after that, SharePoint Online Standard users will get a refresh with 2010 functionality. (SharePoint Online Standard is the SKU typically purchased by SMBs and others who don't mind multitenant/shared infrastructure.) Microsoft is on the same schedule for getting Exchange Server 2010 functionality into Exchange Online, officials added.

An internal Microsoft slide I ran on my blog a few months ago showed Microsoft's original plan (as of November 2009) was to get SharePoint 2010 functionality into the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) Dedicated release in the spring (March) of 2010 and to BPOS Standard users before the end of calendar 2010. I'm thinking that those dates have probably slipped, given that SharePoint Online is one of the pieces of the BPOS offering, and SharePoint Online Dedicated isn't getting 2010 functionality until later this year. Microsoft Senior Vice President Kurt Delbene did say that a beta of the 2010 feature refresh would make it to SharePoint Online Standard customers before the end of this calendar year, but wouldn't provide a year as to when the final version would be released.

Here are a couple of more slides from November that break out more in a more granular way which SharePoint 2010 features are likely to make it into the SharePoint Online release. (Not all of them ever will; some are on-premises software features only, by design.) Given these slides are from a Microsoft presentation from a few months ago, these plans still could change.

Here's the SharePoint Online Dedicated rollout feature slide:

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

And here's the SharePoint Online Standard rollout feature slide:

(Click on the image to enlarge.)

Office Web Apps -- the Web-ified versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote -- are also being delivered in phases, as well.

Microsoft is making the final version of Office Web Apps available to consumers who want to use them for free via SkyDrive and Hotmail starting June 15. Microsoft execs said yesterday that it may take a while for access to Office Web Apps to populate across the Microsoft servers, but June 15 is the start of the delivery there. (Note: OneNote Web App is not part of the initial rollout, but seems to be coming before the end of this year, according to Microsoft documentation.)

June 15 also is the date when Office 2010 goes on sale at retail, Microsoft execs confirmed yesterday and seems also to be the date when Microsoft is going to roll out the final version of at least some of its Windows Live Wave 4 services (though not its Essentials suite), based on what Microsoft officials said yesterday.

If you want to use Office Web Apps on-premises -- hosted inside your own business -- they are available to SharePoint 2010 customers now. But if you want to use Office Web Apps hosted by Microsoft (the same way SharePoint Online is hosted by Microsoft), you'll have to wait until the end of this year to do that.

One more thing (related to this week's Office 2010/SharePoint 2010 launch): Microsoft made available on the Windows Phone Marketplace for download the final Office Mobile 2010 bits. The latest version works with Windows Mobile 6.5 phones only and is free for existing Office Mobile customers. Microsoft officials declined  again this week to provide any timetable as to when a version of Office Mobile 2010 will be available for Windows Phone 7 customers.

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