SharePoint to Get Smarter

Microsoft is working on a new user interface called Smart Pages for its SharePoint Portal Server and sister technology SharePoint Team Services.

The next releases of Microsofts SharePoint Portal Server (SPS) and its sister technology, SharePoint Team Services (SPTS), are both going to get "smarter" next year.

Microsoft is working on a new user interface for these two products called Smart Pages, company officials confirm. Smart Pages will use profile information input by users to populate applications that are running inside the portal server. That way, users wont have to rekey data that is shared across multiple applications; the data will "autocomplete" within the appropriate fields.

Smart Pages also will provide a common rendering engine for Web parts, or "portlets," for both SPS and SPTS.

In a nutshell, SharePoint is Microsofts .Net platform for knowledge workers, says Trina Seinfeld, SPS product manager.

SPS--the productized version of the "digital dashboard" technology that Microsoft announced three years ago--began shipping in May 2001. SPS is part portal, part document manager and part search engine. SPTS are the workgroup/team communication services that are built into OfficeXP, FrontPage and Project Server today, and next year will be available as an add-on to other Microsoft products, including the forthcoming Windows .Net Server (and as an integrated part of the operating system later).

The next release of SPS is due out in mid-2003. Microsoft has a lot on its development plate.

First, Redmond is planning to integrate PSTS and SPS so that they appear as a single entity to the user, Seinfeld says.

Secondly, she notes, Microsoft is working on ways to integrate some of the SharePoint technologies into its base .Net Framework, as well as to allow SharePoint to run on top of the .Net Framework. Some SharePoint users have criticized Microsofts plans to ".Net-ify" SharePoint, claiming that the move will do little to boost the products less-than-optimal performance.

Besides evolving SharePoint so that it can consume Web services, Microsoft also is working on providing .Net-ified SharePoint Web parts.

"We have Web parts today, but they are not really .Net Web parts," Seinfeld acknowledges.

Thirdly, as the company is doing with all of its server products, Microsoft is looking to integrate SharePoint more tightly with other .Net Enterprise Servers. Sources say SPS will be part of an e-business bundle, code-named Jupiter, that Microsoft is developing.

Microsoft is working to build the next version of SPS on the same "Web store" (mechanism for storing for highly unstructured data) as Exchange uses, says Seinfeld. At the same time, Microsoft is working to use SQL Servers indexing technology as the underlying taxonomy engine for SPS. And the company is looking for ways to integrate SharePoint Web parts into BizTalk Server, she adds.

Simultaneously with its next-generation development work, Microsoft will use next months Fusion partner conference to recruit software vendors to build applications that take advantage of SPTS and build on top of Web parts, according to Seinfeld.

Microsoft Group VP Jeff Raikes will likely talk up SharePoint during his Tuesday keynote at the PC Expo trade show in New York next week, as well.

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