Once upon a time, back somewhere in the '00s, I worked for a company that had a simple SharePoint deployment. If memory serves, it didn't do a whole heck of a lot. It was essentially a document storage portal used sparingly, if not downright begrudgingly, by various departments -- part intranet, part file server, part rudimentary website. It was a tool you only used if you absolutely had to, one more likely to induce grumbling than productivity or efficiency. Although no doubt there were more sophisticated SharePoint environments out there, I also suspect I'm not alone in my early experiences.
Times have changed. SharePoint 2013 rings in another significant phase of the platform's continuing evolution. Suffice it to say, this is not the boring corporate intranet of yore.
The buzzwords are all here, with mobile and social leading the way. Microsoft has injected ample doses of both in SharePoint 2013. A variety of mobile-friendly changes enable better user experiences across devices, a must these days for multi-platform and bring-your-own-device environments. It's a potential boon for SharePoint admins who don't want to lose sleep over employee screen sizes, operating systems and other factors that can make the help desk's phone ring off the hook. On the social front, Microsoft wants to put a whole lot more "share" in SharePoint, strengthened by its 2012 purchase of Yammer. New tools such as Community Sites should go a long way toward better meeting modern expectations for social and collaboration interactions.
Of course, it's not just about social and mobile. Search is front and center. As Microsoft program manager Kate Dramstad pointed out in a blog post, "a great search experience is characterized by how easy it is for the user to quickly find what they are looking for." That seems to grow more true with each additional gigabyte of stored data we create, share and store. The hunt-and-peck methodology simply isn't a sustainable way to find the information and tools you need in most organizations these days.
SharePoint 2013 also embraces the modern app paradigm -- not entirely unlike how Windows 8 has app-ified the traditional Windows experience and ushered in Microsoft's first real app store. Developers can publish their apps to SharePoint's public store, or to corporate stores built specifically for the user communities they support. Microsoft is pushing its cloud app model here, although it supports a diverse set of development language and tools. And of course, the SharePoint store will include third-party apps for companies that don't want to be in the development business.
A host of publishing, design, legal and management enhancements are part of the newest release, too. Bottom line: SharePoint might still be many things to many people and organizations, but we can officially say goodbye to the snooze-inducing document portal.
Though there's still no formal date for the general release of SharePoint 2013 and the broader Office 2013 portfolio, Microsoft expects to make it widely available during the first quarter of this year. SharePoint 2013 already is available to volume license customers.
We should note something that might be easy to take for granted or otherwise overlook: There are both on-premises and cloud versions of SharePoint -- SharePoint Server and Office 365, respectively. Our focus here, unless noted, is on the server-based version, although there is obviously a lot of feature overlap between the two. For its part, Microsoft appears to recognize that different companies have different cloud strategies; it will continue to offer and support both server-based and online versions of SharePoint and other Office applications.
Are you planning to upgrade, or have you already started? What features and enhancements are you most excited about? Tell us in the comments.