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5/10/2010
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Review: SharePoint 2010 Gets Overdue Upgrades

The latest version of Microsoft's collaborative platform delivers better business intelligence, new social networking features, and two-way application-integration options.

Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 In Pictures
(click image to view gallery)
Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 In Pictures
Since its first release in 2001, SharePoint has followed the typical Microsoft path from mediocrity to market dominance. What started as a poor man's portal is now a highly scalable platform that starts with robust collaboration and content management and extends Microsoft's reach into business intelligence and custom application development.

Microsoft claims more than 100 million licensed users of SharePoint, and that it's a $1.3 billion-per-year product -- for perspective, that matches the current run rate for Salesforce.com. Doubters like collaboration analyst Michael Sampson say those figures are a figment of Microsoft's Core Client Access License (CAL), which makes it only slightly more expensive to buy a bundle of Windows Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server, and System Center Configuration Manager than to buy Windows Server and Exchange Server independently.

So take Microsoft figures with a grain of salt but have no doubt that SharePoint is used by tens of thousands of companies with tens of millions of users. SharePoint 2010 will keep this juggernaut rolling. Among the six domains covered by the product, the three most heavily used each get key refinements. Those are Sites, delivering collaborative intranet/extranet sites and portal-like environments; Content, leading with document and records management; and Search, mostly inside the firewall.

For CIOs wrestling with how to provide "Facebook for the enterprise" kinds of profiles and collaboration, SharePoint 2010 adds social networking functionality in the Communities area. My Sites has been around since SharePoint 2003, but improved personal profiles in 2010 include better user controls and two-way integration with Active Directory, so profiles and directories alike can be automatically populated and updated.

Social tagging lets people add metadata to profiles to describe their expertise, or to content to describe the document's topic and meaning. Combine those features with SharePoint 2010's new Org Browser (showing who reports to whom) and Note Board Web parts (for adding comments or questions to My Sites, profiles, tags, or pages), and you have a solid foundation for finding experts and relevant content.

It's possible to bring public social network feeds directly into SharePoint sites and communities, but connectors aren't available out of the box. With its new Social Connector feature, Outlook 2010 does more to connect people to public sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace. Social Connector also works with Exchange -- so if you click on a colleague's name in the "From" line, it can show a picture and profile as well as SharePoint-hosted blogs and activity feeds tagged for sharing.

Other upgrades end users will notice are a new ribbon interface for Sites and full support for Firefox and Safari browsers and for Safari, Nokia, and BlackBerry mobile browsers -- showing Microsoft acknowledging the growing world beyond Internet Explorer. There's also better support for taking content offline, letting people work on entire sites, custom lists, and line-of-business data offline and then synchronizing changes when they're back online.

SharePoint 2010's content functionality continues a years-long march toward true enterprise content management scale, with single repositories now maxing out at 50 million items. More relevant to organizations of all sizes are new metadata management, document ID, document sets, and records management capabilities. In an advance over the 2007 product, for example, SharePoint 2010 supports in-place records management -- so documents posted on sites, libraries or other collections can be declared records wherever they reside, with policy-based retention, access permissions and e-discovery hold capabilities.

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