SharePoint and Office betas to arrive soon

People will be able to test out the SharePoint 2010 document management platform and all the software in Office 2010 in November, Steve Ballmer has announced
Written by Simon Bisson, Contributor and  Mary Branscombe, Contributor

Microsoft will release public betas of SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 in November, chief executive Steve Ballmer announced on Monday.

The Office test versions will cover the entire Office 2010 client suite, as well as the Office Web Apps companion software, he added, speaking at the company's SharePoint conference in Las Vegas.

The final versions of both SharePoint 2010 document-management platform and Office 2010 will be available in the first half of next year, Ballmer said in his keynote, where he referred to SharePoint as one of his favourite products.

SharePoint 2010 is the platform that powers on-premises versions of the Office 2010 web applications, which are intended for viewing and editing Office documents from inside document libraries rather than as replacements for the client applications.

Jeff Teper, senior vice president of the Office Business Platform, joined Ballmer on stage to outline what to expect from SharePoint.

"We're working hard on the beta," Teper told the audience. "We think it's basically done, but we want to do one big thing before we release it."

Some 5,000 users inside Microsoft have been testing the new version, and last week it was rolled out to 1,000 employees, Teper said, adding that the SharePoint team wants to monitor the larger deployment before releasing the code publicly.

Teper confirmed that SharePoint 2010 will be 64-bit only. That will allow it to support much larger document libraries: up to tens of millions of items in document libraries and hundreds of millions of documents in archives.

With such large document libraries, "you do not want to use the folder metaphor — this needs a new user interface", Teper pointed out. SharePoint 2010 adds more metadata for organisation, supporting enterprise taxonomies as well as end-user document tagging. Users can also group related documents into a logical document set and apply workflow and metadata to the whole set of documents.

Like the rest of the Office 2010 family, SharePoint will have the Office Ribbon user interface and contextual tabs. It is integrated into the Office 2010 apps, so users can edit documents from a library offline, see tags and other document metadata and can check documents in and out of the Backstage menu.

Microsoft intends to expand the reach of SharePoint, and Office 2010 will include the recently rechristened Groove — now known as SharePoint Workspace 2010 — which will allow offline working and content synchronisation.

Both SharePoint sites and Office Web App documents support multiple browsers, including Safari on the Mac and smartphone browsers for mobile access. Ballmer promised improved Mac support, following on from the SharePoint Companion for Mac, included in the Mac Office SP2 release.

 However, the support will not be comprehensive, he warned. "There will be some things that undoubtedly only work on the PC; I have got to be blunt on that," he said.

Other improvements were promised for SharePoint's built-in development tools and for its integration with Office. The platform software will have the ability to quickly link data sources to Office, SharePoint senior director Tom Rizzo said, as he demonstrated a two-way connection between a SQL database and Outlook contacts.

Another key announcement was the unveiling of PowerPivot for both Excel and SharePoint, which will be available at "roughly the same time as SharePoint and Office 2010", according to Teper. Code-named Gemini, PowerPivot is an in-memory database that runs on both server and client, speeding up working with large amounts of data. Users will be able to work with over 100 million rows, filtering in near real time rather than waiting for SQL Server to process a query and generate a report.

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