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Microsoft Unveils SharePoint 2010

CEO Steve Ballmer calls the enterprise collaboration suite the biggest and most important SharePoint release to date.

Microsoft on Monday took the wraps of SharePoint Server 2010 -- the newest version of the company's unified collaboration, content management, and enterprise search system.

SharePoint 2010 offers a number of new features, spread over various modules, over SharePoint Server 2007.

For enterprise collaboration, Facebook-style tools help users locate key contacts and information within an organization, join groups, create wikis, and communicate directly with colleagues. Microsoft said the suite also facilitates "deep office integration" through social tagging, document life-cycle management, and backstage integration.

For developers, Microsoft has added enhanced support for SharePoint Server 2010 to its Visual Studio 2010 development environment. Developers can also connect SharePoint to line-of-business data and Web services through new Business Connectivity Services built into SharePoint 2010.

Rich APIs and support for Silverlight (Microsoft's answer to Flash) will also help developers rapidly build SharePoint 2010 apps, according to the company.

End users will see a new ribbon interface meant to enhance productivity and make for easier customization, and the platform includes built-in support for video, audio, and other forms of rich media.

SharePoint 2010 also adds new enterprise search technology that Microsoft acquired through its $1.2 billion buyout of Norway's Fast Search & Transfer last year.

"By taming the overflow of information across systems and technologies, SharePoint enables organizations to thrive," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking Monday at a launch event in Las Vegas.

"SharePoint 2010 is the biggest and most important release of SharePoint to date. When paired with Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010 will transform efficiency by connecting workers across a single collaboration platform for business," said Ballmer. Office 2010 is expected to ship early next year.

Though Office sales have declined sharply in recent quarters, SharePoint sales are up 20% on the year, according to Microsoft. The company's annual revenue from SharePoint now stands at about $1.3 billion.

"Buyers have begun to show cohesion and coordination in the decisions they make on the various products spanned by the collaborative content workspace market," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa, in a research report published last month.

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