The direction of SharePoint Online in 2013

December 31, 2012  |  No Comments  |  by Thomas   |  Blog, News

Two massive trends clearly have Microsoft’s attention (read: obsession) right now:

The first is Mobility, attend any Microsoft convention lately and few slide decks are lacking something along the lines of: “by 2016 smartphones and tablets will be used by 1.3 Billion dogs, gerbils, and cats”. Often the topic dominates over 25% of the event.

It makes sense, Windows 8 is their newborn and it is a massive mobility play, “as a side note, we bothered to make it work on your desktop”.

Fearful of another Windows Visa, and late to the mobility market, they are now obsessed. Every product on the Microsoft line is gearing up to be part of the bear hug that Microsoft is trying to make around the mobility trend. “The cloud”, which enables a lot of these mobility plays, has suddenly before a derivative of the story rather than being the story itself.

The Changes:

The new UI is designed to be ubiquitous between a desktop and a mobile device. The new Office 2013 Apps and their web-app counterparts are built to sync directly to SharePoint so that saving files to the cloud is like saving to your desktop (even when done on your phone). They are also designed around the windows 8 framework, no more “file” drop downs, now it is a whole “backstage” menu with big buttons for our flabby fingers to poke while buying Starbucks.

They are also adding an app/store for the download/purchase of per-designed apps that pull from SharePoint data into local apps. And for the IT managers reading this, YES, they are providing administrative infrastructure for the management and approval of any Office 365 or SharePoint Online related app downloads. This last bit they almost had no choice in, as Office 365 has been successful grabbing market share with HIPAA, ITAR, or SAS regulated industries, they are legally bound in some instances to only introduce features with appropriate IT controls in place to meet all those HIPAA BAAs they’ve signed.

Lots of new features for business owners and professionals to be found here, I do however, struggle to see as much logic in the next obsession… The obsession I think we are all tired of hearing about:

“Social”

Microsoft’s acquisition of Yammer is going to play a huge role in the upcoming changes to SharePoint Online. They are still hush hush on the technical details, but have already released details of how it will integrate into the licensing plans. As their #1 complaint is how overly convoluted the licensing model is, they wouldn’t make sweeping changes and complicate it more if they didn’t feel they had a big juicy reason to do so.

Building yammer dashboards into all the SharePoint Online infrastructure is a major goal. New features claim to improve tasks such as the following: Users searching out internal expertise within their company through SharePoint (see below), collaborating on documents and projects and getting on the fly recommendations, improving intra-office collaboration by allowing employees to organically grow a “work network” in a similar way one might grow their linkedin profile.

Click Image to Enlarge

It is almost a bit frustrating to go to these events because Microsoft is making huge improvements in other areas that get grazed over like they hardly matter. For example, standardizing the functional availability of feature sets between SharePoint Online and SharePoint Enterprise has been a area of needed improvement since day one.

The SharePoint team is making massive strides here, improving search, adding BCS Support, supporting PowerShell commands, improving IRM, improving sandbox mode, improving the ability to use SharePoint Online as a public facing website, etc. These are huge strides in feature parity that seem far more compelling than being able to add my boss as a friend… but they get hardly any face time in the update briefings. While I understand the mobility obsession, Microsoft’s focus on social integration is a bit poorly aligned with the needs of midsize businesses. As the details of the next major patch continue to trickle out, hoping they take the opportunity to provide more clarity and specifics on some of the more relevant areas of improvement.

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