Ask businesspeople what the best and most useful product made by Microsoft is, and you may be surprised to hear many skip past the more obvious choices-such as Windows and Office-and go right to SharePoint.
Introduced as a modest set of online extensions for a variety of online and collaborative tasks, SharePoint is arguably the most successful Microsoft product of the last 10 years, especially in the corporate world. In many ways, SharePoint has become the core on which Microsoft has based most of its online enterprise solutions.
Need a corporate portal? SharePoint. Want a collaboration system? SharePoint. A document management system? Web publishing system? For those and many other tasks, companies have made use of the SharePoint platform.
All of this isn't exactly what Microsoft had in mind for SharePoint-users have continually pushed the platform past its original design goals and have used it for tasks such as enterprise content management and records management.
However, while the current version, SharePoint Server 2007, is an excellent product (and the winner of an eWEEK Labs Analyst's Choice award), it is definitely showing its age. To put it into perspective, when Microsoft was developing SharePoint 2007 in 2006, Twitter was just starting to leave its prototype stage and Facebook was just opening up to non-college students.
I recently tested the beta of the newest SharePoint server, which is due in the first half of 2010. I found that it has definitely caught up with the times, including capabilities such as Twitter-style microblogging and social networking. However, in my tests of the SharePoint 2010 beta, I also saw a much improved interface that takes advantage of rich Web technologies (and that also works well on non-Internet Explorer browsers), and I saw many new enterprise features that take into account the advanced applications for which businesses have been using SharePoint.