Ballmer Calls SharePoint the 'Center' of Microsoft's Innovation

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used the platform of his keynote address at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference in Vegas to stress how SharePoint Server 2010 will embrace the cloud and streamline enterprise search for increasingly massive corporations. Both SharePoint Server 2010 and Office 2010 are embracing the cloud, as Microsoft seeks to shift its strategy from primarily desktop-based to one where its products and platforms live increasingly online.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer used his keynote address at Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 in Las Vegas to frame SharePoint Server 2010 as "the center" of Microsoft's attempts to collaborate, find and share information.

Microsoft used the Conference to announce that public betas of both Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Office 2010 would be available in November.

As the company ramps up this week towards its launch of Windows 7, Ballmer and other executives have been casting SharePoint and other products as the keys to increased efficiency for businesses. Key to that efficiency, they argue, is SharePoint 2010's enterprise search and collaboration capabilities, as well as the platform's renewed focus on cloud-centric applications and services.

Click here for a preview of Microsoft Office 2010.
"The amount of software people and businesses have been buying for document management, for business intelligence, for enterprise search, those are all separate purchases, separate infrastructure to manage, separate cost bases," Ballmer said on Oct. 19, according to a transcript of the event, adding that SharePoint allows users to "bring those together in a very, very I think cost-effective way."

At the center of Microsoft's streamlined enterprise search is technology from Redmond's acquisition of FAST Search & Transfer in 2008, which has been integrated into SharePoint 2010 in order to speed the search of up to hundreds of thousands of documents.

SharePoint 2010 also embraces the cloud, Ballmer suggested, with the introduction of SharePoint Online.

"Our cloud solution, SharePoint Online, is designed to give you choice," he told the audience. "Not only can you run some things on-premise, and other things in the cloud, but you can mix and match between the two environments. Maybe you don't want to move your line of business data to the cloud, and you want to run BCS connectivity on-premise, and then run a part of your SharePoint environment in the cloud."

SharePoint Online is designed with enterprise-ready features such as Excel Services and InfoPath Forms Services, which allows for the sharing and management of interactive forms across an organization.

SharePoint's cloud aspects mirror those of Microsoft's Office 2010. While traditionally seated firmly on the desktop, the rise of cloud-based productivity platforms such as Google Apps has led Microsoft to experiment with porting a good deal of Office functionality into the cloud.
Specifically, Microsoft plans on offering Office as a hosted subscription service, in addition to the regular desktop/on-premises version. Microsoft Live subscribers will also be able to access, for free, online versions of OneNote, Excel, Word and PowerPoint that include stripped-down functionality. The full version of Office 2010 will allow users to do more than create, view and save documents.

"With SharePoint 2010, we're providing a much greater depth of features in the cloud," Ballmer added. "So you get almost all your end-user capabilities in SharePoint 2010 in the cloud, and you will get a range of developer features. You won't get all of the full trust APIs in the cloud, but you will get a very robust Sandbox environment in the cloud that can work quite, quite well."

SharePoint Online, however, differs somewhat from SharePoint functionality for building Internet sites. SharePoint Server 2010 will include a number of tools for running Internet-based tools either on-premises, in the cloud, or through a hybrid solution.

"Our toolkits do include very nice Web content management and multimedia, and multilingual capabilities," Ballmer said. "We can facilitate end user publishing without direct IT involvement, and for many dynamic Internet-facing Web sites that's super-important."

SharePoint has traditionally served as Microsoft's core product for enterprise search and connectivity, but the rise of social networking as an increasingly vital tool of business and the rapidly expanding size of enterprise IT infrastructure has led Redmond to attempt a fairly substantial revamp for its 2010 iteration.

In addition to focusing on faster and more accurate enterprise search, SharePoint Server 2010 includes several new additions, including a Ribbon User Interface with specialized toolbars, Deep Office Integration with elements such as social tagging and document lifecycle management, and Business Connectivity Services that connect lines-of-business data and Web services to SharePoint Server and Office 2010 capabilities.