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Microsoft Touts SharePoint As Development Platform

The upcoming SharePoint Server 2007, due late this year, sports new connectivity services and will act as Microsoft's preferred foundation for collaborative apps, company executives said Tuesday.

The upcoming iterations of SharePoint will act as Microsoft's preferred foundation for collaborative apps, company big wigs said Tuesday.

The upcoming SharePoint Server 2007, due late this year, sports new connectivity services for easing the access and use of business data. The next iteration of Windows Sharepoint Services--Version 3.0--will bring new integrated workflow capabilities to the fore and add integral support for ASP.NET 2.0 framework.

Sharepoint server's new "Business Data Catalog" of services is part and parcel of Microsoft's multi-pronged attempt to make Office applications de-facto front ends for back-end line of business or enterprise data. It would also enable search across multiple corporate data repositories via SharePoint Server 2007.

Microsoft wants to make collaboration "simple and bottoms up" but also give users visibility into their important business information, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told attendees of the company's second annual Microsoft Office System Developers Conference in Redmond, Wash.

"We are adding new capabilities to make collaboration simple and bottoms-up, but also gives [users] visibility into business information. There are new capabilities in Office aimed at filling the skills gap," Gates said.

Howard Diamond, CEO of ePartners, a Seattle-based Microsoft gold partner said the emphasis on Sharepoint makes sense.

"We're fronting everything on SharePoint….we sell the dashboard, Business Portal. We almost never do a CRM or Axapta implementation without SharePoint."

Per usual, Microsoft will offer a wide range of tools, depending on the user skill set. SharePoint Designer, announced with the Office 2007 SKU lineup last month, will let users work at a very simple level. Then there's Visual Studio at the high end, InfoPath and SharePoint designer for different application types," Gates noted.

CRN has already reported that Microsoft plans to move SharePoint to the 64-bit world. That may help the infrastructure keep up with what is starting to seem like a bulging workload.

As previously reported, a wide array of compute-intensive capabilities, including Excel services, will now run from Office servers. Another perk of the new Windows SharePoint Services will be integral support for blogging, wikis, and RSS feeds, Microsoft said.

In other tidbits from Tuesday's kickoff keynote, Microsoft announced a Community Technology Preview (CTP) of the next version of Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) This "Orcas" release of the toolset adds support for the Office 2007 lineup, which will feature a new "ribbon" interface.

Gates also said the company is backing a new Open XML Formats Developer Group to help developers share information about developing with Ecma-sanctified formats. Members include Intel, Apple and Toshiba.

Microsoft inaugurated this event last year to position the various Office servers and applications as app-building tools in their own right--and to drum up interest in the next rev of Office, due late this year.

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