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SharePoint Conference 2012 Las Vegas: Thoughts and Experiences

Posted by Patrick Boom on November 16, 2012

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. A common used phrase around here to reflect the joy and possibilities of this city. This years SharePoint Conference was held at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

This years conference also marked the beginning of a new era, as Microsoft launched the new version of SharePoint: SharePoint 2013! In 4 days time, Microsoft brought around 10.000 developers, enthousiast, IT Pros and Business Decision makers up to speed on the road ahead, the new features and the direction they are taking with their products. And believe me, things are going to change!

Microsoft bets heavily on their cloud offerings, with multiple clients and devices, not necessarily on premise or within their suite of products. In this article, I would like to highlight some of the key takeaways I have noticed during this years conference.

Cloud, cloud, cloud

Did I already said cloud? So the main message here is that Microsoft is dedicated one hundred percent to the cloud and their Office 365 offerings. No longer will Office 365 be trailing on the on-premise, full server product. Instead, all features will be implemented online first, in a 90 days update cycle, and be offered to the server versions in later updates. The Windows Azure platform is maturing, although obvisously there are still limitations to what you can do opposed to the on-premise freedom. This freedom however will less outweigh the costs more and more.

Search

Microsoft acquisition of Fast Server has lead to the full integration of the product in 2013. No longer will SharePoint 2013 offer two search engines, but just one. Microsoft has worked the capabilities of the product to be flexible, yet easy to use. Where Search was primarily used for serving search results to the end users, Search will be more and more used for targeted publishing and content disclosure. Search driven applications will find their way to the desktop (Windows 8), the tablet (Microsoft Surface) and phones (Windows Phone 8). Apps are the keyword here and will release a new way of interacting with SharePoint, with rich UI’s of which the end users is unaware of SharePoint. Really cool stuff. Daniel Kogan showed a very interesting session on what you can do with search.

Social

Yeah, so are we getting tired of Social already. Well, social features are taken to the next level with SP 2013. The My Site concept will be replaced with SkyDrive Pro, where people will find their newsfeed on their home site. This newsfeed will surface documents they are following, people, people that follow them, discussions, @mentions and the works. With Yammer tob e fully integrated, Social will become a more vital part of SharePoint than ever before. Key thing here is that anything can be tracked. People, Sites, Documents, Discussion, Tags, @Mentions and so on. And as each of those entitites can have other entities linked, endless possibilities arise when working with Social objects. Imagine what we could do with Apps running on both Windows 8, Windows 8 RT (Surface) and the Phones.

Embracing open standards

Yes, Microsoft has embraced open standards, to the full! This means that they are fully targeting on HTLM5, JavaScript and for example REST services. Any major browser on any platform is now supported to interact with SharePoint, removing the boundaries within companies and end-users on how to consume the content. Output from SP in term of HTML has again undergone a serious overhaul, removing all non-neccessary HTML and complex structures. No ActiveX, but JavaScript. The standard api webservices are deemed depricated in this version and replaced with REST services, enabling communication and interaction across multiple platforms.

OAuth

What? Yeah, copy that. Microsoft has introduced a new security mechanism based on the OAuth protocol to leverage interfarm and inter product communication. This was neccessary to fully integrate products like Exchange, Lync and SQL Server. The OAuth principles are based on the Kerberos priciples, with tokes and claims. They use a Trust Broker to mediate between two products (like for example SP and Exchange) and serve secure communication. It will be a challenge for developers to fully grasp this concept and make more flexible architectures between LoB’s and SharePoint.

Apps!

Following the trend, SharePoint now also embraces the concept of Apps. In fact, anything within SharePoint, whether it is a document library, list or site, is now considered an App. It bridges the gap between consumers and SharePoint on how to work and interact with SharePoint. Apps can be published and shared through the Office Store and SharePoint Store, which can also contain apps from thrid parties, like Bamboo for example. A whole variety of apps can be created through Visual Studio 2012, written in various languages, to extend and enhace the out of the box features.

Customizing the look and feel

SharePoint 2013 features a new Themes engine that can seriously change the way your SharePoint site looks and feels. Easier than ever before, the clean up of HTML and overhaul of the SharePoint style sheets will make it far more easier to created branded sites in SharePoint. The CSS classes have been renamed to more semantical names like BodyText, BodyTitle and so on, so that developers understand which part of the UI they are customizing. The number of CSS files have been reduced and are easier to navigate. New files like spcolor and spfonts allow for easier seggregation between master pages and css files and will speed up your modification of your site. SharePoint 2013 also comes out of the box with a variety of Themes that also includes backgrounds, logo’s and even allow pictures to assume the colors of the theme. Really cool!

Well, I could go on for ages on what has changed in SharePoint 2013, as well as covering all the new features. In fact, so much has changed in 2013, that i twill require quite some investments from the community to get up to speed and discover the possibilities of what SharePoint 2013 offers. Exiting times, where I see the full ecosystem and Microsoft strategic decisions coming together. During the conference, I picked up a MS Surface tablet and really, once you have experienced that, you notice how limited and iPad was. A marvelous device, I love it.

So go out and experience SharePoint 2013. Be insipred!

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