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Microsoft To Showcase New SharePoint Features at Ignite

Microsoft is planning to put its new SharePoint Framework in the spotlight at the company's Ignite conference, scheduled for the last week of September in Atlanta. In addition to the likely release of at least some of the "Feature Packs" recently announced for the server edition and its revamped JavaScript-based SharePoint UI, Microsoft will hold more than 60 technical sessions centered around new and forthcoming features at Ignite focused on its flagship collaboration platform as well as Office 365, both of which will share this same framework.

Jeff Teper, corporate VP for Microsoft's SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, revealed the Ignite plans yesterday during the 100th episode of Office 365 Developer Podcast (listen here). Microsoft's plan to emphasize the on-premises collaboration platform and Office 365 at Ignite is noteworthy because many in the SharePoint community felt the company downplayed it at last year's inaugural event in Chicago. The lack of emphasis at last year's Ignite led many to question if Microsoft was committed to ongoing future on-premises release, especially since the event was conceived to consolidate the former TechEd and SharePoint conferences hosted by the company in past years.

One year later after the inaugural Ignite conference, Teper outlined new features coming to SharePoint Server based on the online Office 365 version, coming in the form of Feature Packs, developer capabilities via its new PowerApps and Flow tools, the revamped modern UI and new framework, which enables the JavaScript rendering engine along with support for other modern languages.

Ignite is now Microsoft's largest technical conference but it targets a broad cross section of IT executives, administrators, operations managers and developers, drawing more than 20,000 attendees. Teper, known as the "father of SharePoint," talked up the Ignite plans during the 30-minute discussion with co-hosts Richard diZerega and Andrew Coats, both Microsoft technical evangelists. "I want to get a little hat that says 'make SharePoint great again,'" Coats quipped, though Teper quickly responded "let's stay away from either party."

All kidding aside, Teper is largely credited with the early success of SharePoint Server. After a two-year hiatus from the SharePoint team to work on strategy for CEO Satya Nadella, Teper was put back in charge of it and the OneDrive for Business organization. Teper presided over the May Future of SharePoint event.

Since that event, Teper said Microsoft has made significant progress in meeting goals outlined at the time. The company is about to hold its third "dev kitchen," the name of in-person events held by the product teams in Redmond with MVPs. "I think by Ignite, you'll see stuff people can use more broadly and we are really, really excited about it," Teper said in the podcast. "If you look at the performance of some of the new Pages, in the new SharePoint UI, you will see a taste of what's ahead."

The new SharePoint Framework is built with integration hooks with the Microsoft Graph and support for open source tooling that deliver client-side JavaScript rendering. This will give SharePoint a much more modern appearance that is also optimized for mobile devices. By supporting JavaScript and other popular environments such as Go and Swift, Microsoft is looking to enable developers who don't want to use C# or environments like SharePoint InfoPath, to embrace the platform.

When SharePoint was conceived more than a decade ago, the idea was to extend the capabilities of the desktop Office suite at the time to servers to enable information sharing via a document management platform, Teper noted. Today, SharePoint is one of Microsoft's core offerings (1.3 million LinkedIn members say they have SharePoint skills, Teper said). New features now typically appear first in the SharePoint Online offering in higher-end Office 365 subscriptions before coming down to the server product, which is a switch from the old SharePoint Server 2013 days.

In a sense, Teper was brought back to keep SharePoint great, at least from Microsoft's perspective.

"When I came back to the team I had a chance to think about what do we really have to do to make SharePoint better," he said. "It's what made it great was embracing core collaboration, content management made up of building blocks -- Pages, Parts, Lists, Libraries and so forth, but we needed to modernize both applications, make it easier to use out of the box, make it run great on a phone, and modernize the development platform. We also need to leverage what people are doing in JavaScript and give people a simple answer for a RAD tool around PowerApps."

Teper said the changes coming to SharePoint as an application platform is the most significant from an architectural perspective since 2003 when the company embraced ASP.NET page model which controls all of the SharePoint parts to what will be a 100 percent JavaScript-based model that will support other modern programming languages such as Go and Swift. Teper is also hopeful this will draw new developers to the SharePoint ecosystem including those in the open source community and developers building cloud-native, container-based apps. At the same time, he's optimistic that the large SharePoint community that now exists will find this equally appealing.

"I think this [new] model is really good," Teper said. "I think you'll see a simple user experience [and] we will have an extensibility model. The goal is not to have somebody have to read 1,000-page how-to program in a SharePoint book. The goal is for any developer out there to come to SharePoint and feel welcome to the party. The .NET developers -- we're thrilled [to have] but we want to attract more [developers using other programming languages] to grow SharePoint. I think besides having a forward-looking architecture this was a way to grow the community."

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 07/22/2016 at 11:51 AM


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