Greetings from London, where we’re going crazy with nine days left until Opening Ceremonies!
In the unlikely event that you were on another planet up until now, let me catch you up: Microsoft unveiled Office 2013, including SharePoint 2013, the newest versions of Office 365, and all other related products. It’s been a huge week in the Twittersphere and blogosphere.
There’s little that hasn’t been said already about the new products and their features. There are even blogs describing, in detail, deployment and implementation procedures. Perhaps the perspective I can provide that's unique is to tell you what I am telling C- and D- level executives, as well as IT Pros and Devs, about what all of this means to your business and the choices you need to make.
The #1 SharePoint 2013 Question Answered: It’s an Application
Is SharePoint a platform or an application? Well, for the history of the product that’s been a hard question to answer, because it was both.
But now, Microsoft is saying quite clearly, “it’s an app.” SharePoint 2013 is designed to be used with out-of-box capabilities, to ensure scalability, manageability, and upgradeability.
Lightweight customizations will be made with no-code changes and heavier customizations will be made using the new Application model, where, in effect, your code is running off-box, as scalable and manageable as it needs to be, and interacts with SharePoint through a variety of defined interfaces.
SharePoint “surfaces” your custom code. It provides the glue between content, services, and users. Microsoft can then add features, scale the service, and upgrade components without worrying about compatibility of tightly-coupled customization.
The “platform” isn't gone entirely. Microsoft makes a point that many of the ways you develop for SharePoint 2010 will still be possible in SharePoint 2013, on premises.
But the clear direction is: don’t touch my box. Develop off-box and talk through services. It makes perfect sense, when you realize that Microsoft needs to scale SharePoint as a service to extreme levels, but the same architectural decisions that enable that type of scalability facilitate manageability in an enterprise of any size.
Microsoft’s Pain Is Our SharePoint Gain
In TechEd Keynotes, Microsoft executives touted the fact that only in the last few years did product engineers—the folks who write the code—actually support the product as it runs in Office 365. So when something goes horribly wrong and escalates, an engineer can theoretically get a call at 3:00am.
That—according to the mythology, at least—encourages rapid solutions to the pains of deployment, configuration, and administration that we, poor customers, have been feeling for all of these years.
Sure enough, a lot of what we see in SharePoint 2013 addresses pains we’ve been screaming about for years. There will be a LOT to cheer about as we dig into the product.
Microsoft has also been feeling a lot of pain on the business side, with competitors owning huge market shares in virtualization, mobile, cloud, and search.
Microsoft hasn’t announced pricing for Office 2013 or Office 365 yet, but when you look at what it did for Windows--$39 upgrade to Windows 8--it becomes clear that Microsoft is willing to scorch the earth around its competitors and make upgrading a no-brainer on the cost front.
Whether it’s from improved manageability and scalability or simply rock-bottom pricing, I can almost guarantee significant opportunities for reduced TCO in SharePoint 2013 and Office 365 for every business.
The SharePoint Release Will Be Ready for Prime Time
As I have described in earlier newsletters, it’s also critical to realize that, by the time SharePoint reaches RTM and general availability, there will already be thousands and thousands of users in production on SharePoint 2013, thanks to Office 365.
There is almost no sense in the philosophy of “waiting for Service Pack 1” any longer. Those days are gone. There will always be bugs, but the perceived benefit of waiting (for years, in many cases) to upgrade will cost you immediate benefits in functionality and business value, as well as cost of management.
Social in SharePoint Is Here
Social in SharePoint 2013 is “version 3”, as far as I’m concerned, and Microsoft typically gets it really good in version 3. Microblogging, newsfeeds and “following” for people, sites, and tags, significantly improved discussion forums, and other features make SharePoint 2013 a no-brainer for enterprise social projects, at least in comparison to SharePoint 2010.
Scrap all of your plans to deploy new social projects on 2010. Wait and do it on 2013. Add Yammer to the mix and it gets exciting fast.
Is SharePoint 2013 the Last Version of SharePoint?
I ask this for two reasons. First, I think we’re near or at the end of the traditional “product lifecycle.”
With “service first” approaches, Office and SharePoint (and Windows) will increasingly be like Facebook, where new features are released regularly (quarterly in the case of Office 365). Welcome to the never-ending “rolling upgrade.”
The great news is that, to enable that model, there have been changes to the upgrade infrastructure that let you upgrade the service and its components without affecting users (i.e., without changing their experience). Yet another reason to get on board now.
Soon, you won’t be “waiting to upgrade”-- the upgrades will be coming to you.
Closing the Gap Between SharePoint Architecture, Manageability, and Usability
Many of you have seen or read my discussions about “Architecting Governance,” which focus on the challenges of designing a logical and physical infrastructure for SharePoint based on information and service management requirements.
Two of the most significant pain points that caused organizations to go horribly wrong in their architectures were the lack of cross-site navigation and content queries. SharePoint 2013’s managed navigation and overhauled content query capabilities will reduce the friction between “doing it right” and “making it easy [for users and administrators].”
Working in the Real World with Office and SharePoint
Microsoft has clearly had an epiphany about the importance of expanding its world view to support the non-Microsoft world. Office 2013 will be released for Macs at RTM. Office 2013 apps such as OneNote will be available for all major mobile platforms (iPad, iPhone, Android, and Windows RT [available now in the Windows 8 app store]).
And plenty of rumor-mongers have raised the possibility of an Office 2013 for iPads to a near certainty. One thing is for sure, Microsoft is getting real about delivering its “services” to users regardless of the users’ device.Add to that the newfound “love” that non-.NET developers are getting. You can develop for SharePoint and Office without touching Visual Studio, if you so desire. Both Office and SharePoint and Office 365 are extended through services, and it basically doesn’t matter what platform those services are running on.
Of course, the development story will probably be significantly easier with Microsoft’s tools and development platforms.
Innovative SharePoint UI Design
SharePoint and Office sport impressive new UIs that are clean and simple. Terminology has changed, and elements have moved, but this time I think it’s safe to say that everything is taking a huge step toward natural, intuitive design.
In fact, some parts of the story—like the new radial menu in OneNote RT—are downright outrageously cool. And, for once, design concepts apply across the spectrum of products: Windows, Phone, Office, SharePoint, Xbox.
Split Your SharePoint Workloads
Stop trying to do everything on “one version” of SharePoint, or even “one farm.” Figure out what your business needs are and build accordingly. That means some workloads belong onsite on SharePoint 2010 (or earlier), some in the cloud, some on prem on 2013.
Microsoft Bet the Farm. Buy In!
The most level-headed folks I know recognize the magnitude of what Microsoft has undertaken in the last couple of years, steering not just one big boat, but all of its big boats, in a radically new direction.
Core tenants such as “Only on Windows” have been shattered. It's now Service-first. Real design. Consumer focus. Non-.NET. $39 price tags for Windows. Cloud. Subscription models. Creating hardware [Surface]. The list goes on and on. The company has gone through a revolutionary change.
You can see, clearly, that Microsoft is attacking most or all of the major industry metatrends—including mobility, cloud, big data, social, search, compliance, distributed workforce—all at once. This is as aggressive a Microsoft as I’ve ever seen. A Microsoft taking more risks, and bigger risks, than I can remember.
This is huge. And Microsoft is applying what Google and Apple and Amazon have proved possible into an ecosystem of products that touch over a billion users.
Not everything Microsoft is going to release is going to be a home run, but I think that the company has met its goal of proving it can innovate and adapt to a world that is very different than it was just a few years ago.
This is “do or die” for Microsoft. All the cards are on the table. Microsoft will either crash and burn or will catch fire in a way that will astound us.
While Apple, Google, Amazon, and other companies are and will continue to be innovative and successful, this is the time where Microsoft pulls together the 80 percent and pushes it out to a billion users. That’s why my money is on Microsoft’s success.
I think Microsoft is now unshackled from several major weights. It is through the legal battles of the 90s and early 2000s. It has built an extraordinarily capable cloud. And now it has overhauled every one of its core products.
While I’m very impressed at what I see in the new releases, and while I see the value they deliver, and the pain they address, I am actually most interested in what Microsoft will do next!
All of the talented people who made all of these huge changes possible will now be unleashed to add features and functionality to the newly-plumbed service-first products. Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.