Okay folks, Mikey is doing the happy dance today with the much anticipated unveiling of SharePoint 2010 here at the SharePoint Conference 2009. Anyone who knows me knows how excited about SharePoint I can get as an Enterprise Enablement platform. However, as excited as I have been in the past this coming version has me positively jumping. With each release of SharePoint we have witnessed a steady growth in the capabilities of the product as it has grown to embrace major enterprise workloads such as collaboration, portal delivery, search, content management, business process and forms, as well as business intelligence. As big as that growth has been though it pales in comparison to the advances in this iteration.

SharePoint 2010 is absolutely the biggest most important release of SharePoint to date and in the opinion of this techie the single most important product release since Windows 95! Think I have drank a little too much of the Kool-Aid? Well consider how this rev of SharePoint addresses connecting and empowering people, cutting costs through a unified infrastructure, as well as providing a platform that facilitates a rapid response to business needs. Need more convincing after reading this post? Then be sure to check out "What makes Microsoft SharePoint tick?" by Mary Jo Foley. After that if you are still wondering what all the fuss is about why not check out these three videos by the SharePoint team that provide an overview of SharePoint 2010, as well as focuses for the IT Pro and Developer. Once you are sufficiently salivating then be sure to pre-register for the SharePoint 2010 beta here!!

Connecting and Empowering People:

For years Microsoft struggled with how to introduce new features in to its Office products and make them easy to access. With each release as more features were added they were increasingly buried within an application menu system that was great for a limited set of features but which struggled to surface capabilities to users. After years of intense research and usability testing Microsoft introduced the Ribbon, a contextual user interface, which surfaces features and functions depending upon the activity the user is engaged in. With this release of SharePoint the Ribbon comes to SharePoint as well. "So what Michael, what does that even mean?" you might ask. Simply put it now means that end users will have a common experience across all the Office System application whether desktop client or browser based. It will simplify the access to features that would be beneficial to users and administrators that might otherwise not be so obvious. Furthermore, it means that training and the user learning curve will be reduced across the Office System stack. Learn how to interact with one Office System product and you will know how to interact with all of them, including SharePoint. Reduction in the learning curve means broader adoption and a quicker ramp up to productivity.

With the advent SharePoint 2007 adoption and use of the product really skyrocketed. People started using it to collaborate in storing documents in libraries and data in lists. Once all that information made its way to SharePoint though the inevitable question arose, "how do I take my data with me offline?" Enter the latest edition to the Office Pro Plus line-up, SharePoint Workspace. SharePoint Workspace is the revamped Groove product that enabled rich, secure, peer to peer collaboration for workers on the go. With it's genesis in the security realm SharePoint Workspace now allows you to take all your SharePoint content with you permitting anywhere anytime access to the data you need to get your job done. Need to proxy out content from your SharePoint Intranet environment to a client or partner but don't want to extend direct access to them. No problem. You can provide them with a non-time bombed copy that will give them perpetual access to your workspace/content you invite them to at no charge. SharePoint Workspace is the definitive bridge between hosted applications and disconnected access.

Smart Phone use and capabilities have exploded since the release of SharePoint 2007. While SharePoint 2007 offered basic mobile access to its content the new version has kicked it up a whole notch... and then some. Keeping in mind the new 3 screen vision at Microsoft for applications (browser based, mobile device, and PC) this version of SharePoint out of the box will bring a smile to mobile workers faces. Users will get a rich view of content within SharePoint via their smart phone browser access. Additionally, they will be able to edit content directly from those same devices if they have the appropriate permissions. Mobile access is all the rage now and this version of SharePoint delivers it in spades... out of the box!

With new features like personal password management, Office web applications, enhanced Web 2.0 features and more, SharePoint 2010 delivers the richest possible experience in reaching across the firewall to connect with partners and customers. Now your internal content creators can set aside concerns about HTML, PHP, and the like. They can confidently produce documentation in Office, publish it to SharePoint and know that their intended consumers of that content will be able to open it, and if they have appropriate permissions, even edit the content, all from a web browser. Those users on a PC with Internet Explorer? Check! They can access/interact with the content. Are they running a Mac with Safari? Check... and ditto! Running a Linux box with Firefox? Check again! :-) SharePoint can now extend the reach of its content, including Office created documents to everyone while retaining the high fidelity quality that users expect.

Cut Costs with a Unified Infrastructure:

Web 2.0 applications are all the rage now. Different apps delivering different capabilities aim to tackle blogging, wikis, discussion boards, document management, and more all try to deliver great "best of breed" experiences. Trying to implement a hodge podge of applications in a piecemeal fashion presents a number of challenges to any Enterprise implementation. Today's corporate IT operations groups know that the real cost of any software is not in the up front purchase but in the subsequent maintenance and integration of those applications. SharePoint 2010 squarely meets the needs of today's Enterprise.

Out of the box SharePoint 2010 delivers a seamless integrated offering that addresses corporate needs around collaboration, search, BI, content management, social computing, and more. By providing a comprehensive integrated platform SharePoint can dramatically lower operational maintenance costs while delivering real business value across all those workloads. Backup and recovery, governance, development, help desk support. All these areas would need to be addressed on a one off application by application instance if organizations opt to go with so called "best of breed" applications. By climbing aboard the SharePoint train organizations can focus on their core vertical areas (manufacturing, financial services, etc.) while delivering world class functionality across all the varied workloads covered by SharePoint.

Training has a direct result against deployment and usage of any system in an Enterprise environment. By simplifying and unifying the user interface in SharePoint with that of the Office desktop clients SharePoint 2010 has lowered the learning curve for adoption. Additionally, Microsoft has enabled many core internal training scenarios within SharePoint itself. The introduction of streaming media within SharePoint now natively enables scenarios such as application screencasting. Value add releases such as Productivity Hub provide a platform and content for training around SharePoint and Office.

In this economic climate many IT shops are hard-pressed for hardware costs as well as operational costs. With SharePoint's latest release Microsoft  delivers the ultimate in flexibility for deployment. With hosted services available in standard and dedicated configurations organizations can now choose to host all or part of their SharePoint environment internally or externally on Microsoft infrastructure. Want to initially stand up a SharePoint instance on Microsoft infrastructure and then move to an internally hosted model down the road? No problem. Microsoft can readily accommodate you SharePoint hosting needs.

Rapidly Respond to Business Needs:

As the importance of corporate websites increases, whether internally or externally focused, SharePoint 2010 delivers an enhanced integration experience through through a number of business ready mechanisms, not just via lengthy development engagements. With the revamped Excel Services coupled with Gemini Excel is now a world class data aggregator and visualization tool capable of handling more than a 100,000,000 rows of data! Your organizations Excel jockeys will have the power to deliver rich dynamic data to the organization via SharePoint 2010. Has your organization struggled with managing the proliferation of Access database applications that in many cases have become mission critical? Enter Access Services in SharePoint 2010 to harness the creative power of Access to create departmental applications while now doing so in a manner which is centralized, backed up and managed. Want to visualize dynamic process within your organization? Enter Visio Services. Now you can link Visio 2010 to dynamic data and process, publish it to SharePoint 2010, and content consumers can see live, interactive, visualizations delivered courtesy of Visio Services. Want to link SharePoint 2010 data columns to real business data? Now you can with Business Connectivity Services (formerly the Business Data Catalog). SharePoint Business Connectivity Services can also be bidirectional which means you can write data to other applications from within SharePoint 2010 lists!

With a full range of web services and integration capabilities (I haven't even brushed across Visual Studio 2010, SharePoint Designer 2010, Silverlight, XRM, and more...) SharePoint can deliver an integrated organizational experience as no other platform can. By placing extremely powerful, and managed, tools in the hands of business SharePoint 2010 free up an organizations development resources to focus on deeper development tasks. By virtue of its deep integration with Visual Studio 2010 SharePoint 2010 also serves as the pre-eminent platform for developing integration interfaces in to an organizations multitude of legacy applications. If the data exists in your organization then SharePoint 2010 can get to it, integrate it, and present it in a meaningful way, all from one unified interface. When corporate Intranets first burst on to the scene many years ago there was a lot of hype about all the ways in which they would benefit an organization. For years now that dream has been waiting. The wait is over folks and the dreamed fulfilled is SharePoint 2010!
Now that the cat is out of the bag and I am free to begin showing off SharePoint 2010 I will be releasing a number of demonstration video posts here that dive in to the topics I have covered here and highlight in a concrete way in which this latest version of SharePoint is going to rock the business world. Be sure to check back here for more information and demonstrations. Well the SharePoint Conference is in full swing and it's time for me to head out and take in some of the goodness. Be sure though to check out my action items to get you started on your SharePoint 2010 learning today and pre-register for the Beta as well.


Michael's Must Do's:
Are you ready to check out the new SharePoint 2010 site content including; Register for SharePoint 2010 Beta Code, 3 Value Pillars of SharePoint 2010, SharePoint Workloads Deep Dive, 10 New Demonstration Videos, Overview of Related Technologies (SharePoint Designer, SharePoint Foundation), SharePoint Communities Content (links to blogs, forums, etc), and more.

What are you waiting for? Get started today!
Michael Gannotti is a SharePoint Technology Specialist for the Microsoft Corporation and the author of SocialMedia Talk with Michael Gannotti