SharePoint Conference is huge this year. There are about 7400 people, so it’s almost twice as big as last year. The keynote venue is gigantic. Technically seems like a very well setup operation. The web site is really nice for managing all the session, then being able to access them via a phone. All tech conferences should be doing this at this point. No excuse vendors.
Tom Rizzo, whose a Director or something or other SharePoint related at Microsoft (just kidding Tom) is M-Cing the keynote, but people are definitely here for the demos and Ballmer. Wow, allegedly two couples are getting married at the conference. That’s, um, some kind of special.
They are rolling a video clip of high profile SharePoint sites. There are some *big* (think Fortune 100) names in there. I don’t think we need to worry about whether we’re going out on a limb to recommend SharePoint for ssites these days, whether they are Internet facing or internal.
And, hey, it’s Steve! Not as cool as turtleneck Steve, but style points don’t win the enterprise. Hey, apparently this is the first speech in a while he doesn’t feel obligated to start with a commentary on the economy. I guess he feels like the SharePoint economy is doing just fine thank you. If you look at their sales numbers, you can see why. He mentions that they have a video camera at the back of the audience where they can tell how many people have some kind of laptop, tablet, etc fired up. It turns out not very many. That’s one of the points he’s trying to make is that we still have work to do on device form factor (see their tablet PC initiatives, Surface, etc).
First big datapoint – public beta in November – for SharePoint 2010 and the rest of the Office 2010 suite. Other than that he hasn’t said anything that wasn’t already on the MS SharePoint website.
Big trend stuff:
Move to cloud hosting (SharePoint Online)
Push to external facing sites
Emphasis on composite and “mashup” apps. Of course, this was Plumtree’s vision circa 2002. Turns out this is harder than you’d think.
Wow, Steve’s actually a SP user himself. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, but it still kind of is. He just talked about how he setup a collaboration site for all of his senior leadership team with their latest sales numbers, different documents, etc. It didn’t sound that complicated, but, hey, he’s the CEO and he’s an actual hands-on user. I’m sure most companies would kill for that kind of adoption.
Based on his comments, it’s clear they received (and responded to) an absolute ton of feedback about the developer experience for SharePoint and it’s lack of “1st class citizen” status in Visual Studio. This is good.
SharePoint Online is being taken very seriously. Over 1,000,000 users. Glaxo is moving 100,000+ users to it. Pretty much the whole set of end-user features is available in the cloud version, and some of the developer features are available (see the “Sandboxes” stuff in the demo section). They are more than happy to support “mix and match” capability between hosted and on-premise environments. Of course, this is probably also the ideal setup for them from a licensing standpoint. You’re paying for stuff twice.
Microsoft *really* wants us to be able to build Internet-facing sites with SharePoint 2010. Some interesting examples. Kraft Foods has consolidated 200 web sites into one SharePoint infrastructure. 100M page views/month. Marketing people are able to publish new content entirely without IT involvement. They actually have a new SKU they are launching to support this “SharePoint Server for Internet Sites”.
Ugh, a big slide of licensing soup. I just don’t have the energy right now, but it looks like generally we’re fine internally and may be better off for external-facing stuff. Also, apparently “SharePoint Foundation” is the new name for WSS. I’m not sure if this helps or hurts in terms of the old confusion between WSS/MOSS.
Interestingly, Steve says that SharePoint today probably does not look that much like what their roadmap said 5 years ago. They have really been pushed by their customers in directions we want. That’s a good thing, and they seem happy to go with it.
First big applause point of the day. He’s running the demo on Windows 7! Yay, no more having to setup server operating systems to do SharePoint development, or at least basic development.
SharePoint Designer now actually looks like an Office app, ribbon and all. So he’s showing a concept called “External Content Type” which basically allows external databases/web services to be mapped into the SharePoint/Office universe. This is kind of just the Business Data Catalog and the old Data Sources concept in SharePoint Designer. It’s not clear from this demo how well this will work in the real world, but it certainly has potential.
Now he’s showing the integration with Visual Studio 2010. It’s definitely. There’s a visual web part designer, which should be pretty nice as a productivity enhancer for developers. Much nicer solution building capability now. Also, it looks like their using the “mapped” directory capability SP already has to let you add supporting resources like images and styles to your.
There’s a “developer dashboard” console that can be brought up on a SharePoint page now. It has all kinds of super useful debugging information. This will be *huge*. Congratulations Microsoft, you caught up to the version of Plumtree they had 4 years ago, well almost.
Sandboxes are a new capability to allow certain groups of users more rights than they otherwise might have to deploy web parts and things without having full admin rights. You can also monitor these for bad behavior and shut them down. I suspect Microsoft was their own major customer for this feature because it will allow them to host SharePoint as a cloud-based service much more easily.
Web Content Management has been improved quite a bit. Page editing now uses the ribbon UI. They *finally* have a way to support XHTML (i.e. compliant) web pages. Can change page layout on the fly (similar to picking slide layouts in PowerPoint). The rich-text editing is now cross-browse and (allegedly) generates much cleaner HTML. There is a built-in media player web part now. Couple niceties – automatic spell checking for publishing pages.
They demoed a very click Silverlight web part to “search” a product catalog using the FAST search capabilities without typing any keywords. It’s unclear how much development this took though.
Q: Will their be a “Windows Update-like” page that has all the updates, service packs, etc?
A: Steve says “the right answer is ‘yes’”, but not sure of the actual answer. Tom is clearly a bit embarrassed, but says they are working hard to make this better
Q: How will SP keep up with “web-speed” development cycles?
A: Steve basically thinks it’s a myth that development happens more rapidly just because it’s on the web. He’s probably right
Q: What about social computing in SP (nothing like a softball question)?
A: Lots of social networking stuff in SP. Steve takes the opportunity to plug FAST “semantic” search
Q: What are they doing to make governance better?
A: Tom says governance is mostly a process issue. Steve shows why he is CEO and makes the cogent point that one of the most important things SharePoint Online will do is allow them to “industrialize” the processes around supporting large SharePoint environments and then share it with everyone else. Great point.
Q: How about Mac support?
A: The browser-based pieces should work across browser, including Safari. There will always be things that work better
Q: Can we use the new developer tools with the “old” SharePoint 2007?
A: Nope, but maybe in the future
Q: Teed up question from Tom to Steve (but very relevant) How willing are enterprises to embrace social computing?
A: Steve talks about a CEO of a Fortune 50 company that he went to B-school with whose CIO says “there will be no facebook in our enterprise”. He basically says of course you don’t want your corporate data going on the actual Facebook and Twitter, but you should be able to feel comfortable putting those types of data on your own SharePoint environment. They are trying to give us the ammo to make this case at the conference. Let’s hope they’re successful.