Microsoft SharePoint 15: A 2012 release target, an app marketplace and more

Microsoft is adding new features to the next versions (Wave 15) of its SharePoint Server and SharePoint Online offerings. Here are early looks at some of those.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Since Microsoft announced the launch of its invitation-only test program for Office 15 in late January, things have been relatively quiet.

But that doesn't mean folks like me -- and others -- aren't out there scouring the Internet for interesting tidbits. One of these people, "SharePointaholic" Bjorn Furuknap, a senior solutions architect and founder of USPJ Academy, an online SharePoint education company, has gone the extra mile.

Furuknap has turned his SharePoint.next sleuthing into a subscription business. (He allowed me to peek at a couple of issues of his findings for free. He is making all his current and future SharePoint 15 research for a one-time fee of $14.95.) Furuknap himself is not under any Microsoft non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) on the next version of Microsoft's collaboration/publishing server and services. But he seems to be pretty good at sifting through clues and putting the pieces together.

Furuknap said he is hearing, like I am, that Microsoft is aiming to release to manufacturing its Office 15 products -- the next version of its client, its Office servers (including SharePoint Server 15), and its Office 365 bundle with the latest features -- before the end of calendar 2012. Last I heard, Microsoft was planning to call Office 15 "Office 2012." But if the bits aren't released until, say, November of this year, maybe they'll switch gears and call it "Office 2013."

Furuknap said he's found indicators that SharePoint 15 is going to include a number of significant new features. I've run these past another source of mine who is in the know about the Office 15 Technology Adoption Program (TAP) bits and that person confirmed these are all in there.

1. SharePoint 15 will include a new SharePoint Apps Marketplace 2. SharePoint Apps will support multi-tenant installations so that hosting providers can make available the same set of applications to multiple customers 3. SharePoint 15 gets a new Education module/option making the product more of a head-to-head competitor with Moodle, which is an open-source course-management system

I'm also hearing from my unnamed source above that SharePoint 15 and Exchange Server 15 are both also getting additional built-in information-rights-management (IRM) document-protection functionality as part of the base products.

Microsoft isn't discussing the Wave 15 family of Office products at this point. "We don’t have anything further to say with regards to the next versions at this point," a spokesperson told me today when I asked.

On the Apps Marketplace side of the house -- despite an announcement that such a capability would be part of SharePoint 2010 -- there really is nothing like that available today, Furuknap said. There is an Office 365 app marketplace, but this is something different, too.

"The (SharePoint 2010) Gallery currently contains one single site template, the functional equivalent to a wallpaper on a phone. There's no evolution to speak of, and there's no functionality in the create gallery to support anything like what's been described in the SP2013 App Store," he said. (Yes, Furuknap is betting it's going to be called SharePoint 2013 due to its very late in the year delivery target.)

Meanwhile, the new Education capability may end up a separate add-on or could be part of the base SharePoint 15 server, Furuknap said.

"Being in the education sector myself, I would love to see mobile clients that support SharePoint Education so that students can actively work on tablets or phones. Current platforms like Moodle are far behind on this, offering only web pages rarely adapted for mobile use," he added.

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