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Network World - LAS VEGAS – SharePoint is evolving beyond its server application role to become a full-fledged platform that could provide IT and developers alike with a powerful Internet tool while giving Microsoft new leverage against operating system foes, according to end users, analysts and partners.
The transformation of SharePoint, however, is still in the trial process with the 2010 version slated for its first public beta next month. But the feature set, revealed in-full this week at the company's annual SharePoint conference, shows that what was once a server is now poised to become a platform reaching from the intranet to the cloud and out onto developers' palettes.
Microsoft is pushing SharePoint's capability as an Internet-facing Web server, its new integration with Visual Studio development tools, its revamped SharePoint Designer, a host of new social computing features, a more secure runtime environment for application components and a set of cloud-based APIs that open SharePoint to technology's hottest trend.
To emphasize the point, the company trotted out CEO Steve Ballmer for his first ever keynote rally cry to the SharePoint faithful and to any coder within earshot of his high-energy love for developers.
"We are excited to have some developers, developers, developers jump right in there," Ballmer said mimicking his infamous rant during an exclusive interview with Network World earlier this week, as he grinned and rubbed his hands together in anticipation of the potential results.
The results, however, are far from a foregone conclusion.
"From an architectural standpoint, the proof is in the pudding and how it gets tested out by customers," said Scott Gode, vice president of product management and marketing for Azaleos, which offers a remote management service for SharePoint, Exchange and Office Communications Server.
That testing will play out over the next six to eight months or so before the final release of the software ships in the first half of 2010. Experts are pegging the ship date as May or June, although Microsoft has not discussed specifics. According to Gode: "Users will have to ask, 'What is Microsoft doing to go from departmental deployments to mission-critical applications?"
But already the anticipation is building.
"I think SharePoint is finally being architected as a platform," said Rob LaMear, CEO of fpweb.net, which hosts some 1.2 million seats of SharePoint. "The 2010 version is open now for building applications with an open UI and with APIs that have the ability to tie into other Web sites."
LeMear's fpweb.net is rolling out in November a hosted offering called Quickstart Business Suite that will offer departmental and vertical applications that can be dropped onto the platform to create applications. When the new REST and ATOM APIs come in 2010, the suite will support calls out to other Web 2.0 applications such as Twitter.
One important upgrade in 2010 is that all the integration happens without a single dynamic link library being installed, which LeMear says, eliminates stability issues.